Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Miraclo, do your stuff!

In which I attempt to reclaim the honour of a great hero from the scurrilous accusations of drug addiction... only to imply even more unpleasant things about him.

The Hour-Man (variously written as Hour Man, Hourman etc) first appeared in Adventure Comics #48, cover-dated March 1940, actually published in early January. That makes him one of the earliest comic book superheroes to spring up in the golden age of comics. Superman had invented the concept a year and a half earlier. Batman was less than a year old. You get the idea. Hour-Man went on to be one of the eight founding members of the world's first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, but was abruptly dropped from their lineup after their first five adventures. His solo stories were cancelled at the end of 1942.

The real-world explanation is that his stories were second-rate at best, kids had no interest in reading them and DC Comics wanted to make room in Adventure for more popular characters. I care nothing for the real world, and I'm going to pretend it doesn't exist for the purposes of this essay.

Later revivals of the character, starting in the early sixties, made him out to have been addicted to the pills that gave him his power, as well as addicted to the thrill of fighting crime. He's a cautionary tale among the Justice Society heroes. I care nothing for later revivals, and all I'm interested in here is his three years of publication, back in the days of clean, wholesome entertainment for the young boys of America.

So here he is, "Tick-Tock" Tyler, the Hour-Man! Superhumanly fast and strong for just one hour at a time! Nobody knows that he's really the meek and mild chemist Rex Tyler! The police think he's a bad guy! Women scare him! His ideal vacation is a camping trip to a lonely island with several young boys! Parents repeatedly go to great lengths to prevent their sons associating with him! The Justice Society of America don't talk about him! And whatever DID happen to Jimmy Martin?

Adventure Comics was nearly but not quite the original. Comic books were very very new at this point in history. After More Fun Comics, they didn't get much longer-established than Adventure. It had already been going for four years at this point - enough to make it the trusted old guard, preferred to the newcomers in the market.

If you're familiar with American comics of today, you'll be thinking of a slim and expensive thing, consisting of a single 20-page story about a superhero or team. Put that out of your mind. Comics in 1940 were anthologies - lots of different stories, mostly no more than six pages in length, with jokes, puzzles and all kinds of filler. 64 pages in total, all in colour for a dime. There would be two pages of plain text (a hastily-churned out short story) in order for the comic to legally qualify as a 'magazine' and get a reduced postage rate. At this point in history it had only just been noticed that Superman was outselling every other kind of comic by a huge margin. Sales were through the roof, and the millions of American kids were demanding more superheroes. The various wizards, jungle heroes, two-fisted adventurers, detectives, cops and comedy strips were gradually being edged aside and replaced by characters who were a lot more like Superman.

Adventure Comics only had one sort-of-superhero at this point, The Sandman. He wore a creepy gas-mask, had no superpowers, fought crime at night using sleep-gas and generally felt more like the old pulp-magazine heroes. Later on, he'd become a spandex-clad conventional hero, complete with kid sidekick Sandy The Golden Boy, but that was all in the future at this point (and has been completely ignored by those later revivals, who prefer the gas-mask). So Hour-Man can claim to be the first "real" superhero to grace the pages of Adventure Comics.

He follows the trends of early-forties superheroes, starting out by fighting social injustice (exploitative factory owners, money-grabbing landlords, corrupt politicians etc) before moving on to gangsters and robbers, followed by mad scientists, monsters and super-villains. It took a few years for comic writers to realise what kids wanted to read about. Let's take a quick look through each of his adventures...

Adventure Comics No. 48 (March 1940)

The Hour-Man gets the front cover, showing off his nice costume - black torso, arms and underpants-on-the-outside, red belt, yellow legs, hood (which nearly always manages to be partly in shadow) and cape with red trim, black boots and an hourglass dangling around his neck. He also gets the first six pages of the comic to show off his stuff.

The only creator ever credited on these stories is "by Bernard Baily" under the title. He's an artist most famous for the Spectre, and this stuff is very bland and often awkward by comparison. The plots would have been written by uncredited writers; Ken Fitch apparently thought up the concept.

This is explicitly the first ever adventure of Hour-Man, but the comic doesn't depict him actually discovering his powers; we just get an info-box at the top of the title page (along with a big full-figure drawing of the hero and his full name in big letters - Presenting "Tick-Tock" Tyler, the Hour-Man). This is all the readers need to know: "Introduction... Rex Tyler, a young chemist, discovers MIRACLO, a powerful chemical that transforms him from a meek, mild scientist to the underworld's most formidable foe... with Miraclo he has for ONE HOUR the power of chained lightning - speed almost as swift as thought... but unless he performs his feats of strength and daring within one hour the effects of Miraclo wear off and the Hour-Man becomes his former meek self..."

A fascinating thing about these early adventures is that Rex is genuinely "meek and mild", introverted and cowardly without the Miraclo. It's not an "assumed guise of meekness" like Clark Kent; it's the real thing. The idea was dropped after a while; later on, Rex would occasionally pretend to be meek in order to protect his secret identity, but actually thought like a hero even when not under the influence of Miraclo.

So how does a hero get started in the hero business in 1940? Superman works for a newspaper, so he hears about problems that need to be solved. Batman is best friends with the police commissioner, so he gets his information that way. Rex Tyler, though, is a chemist working for a private company. He puts an advertisement in the newspaper!

"A strange ad appears in a great metropolitan daily" [the city Hour-Man lives in is unnamed at this point. It goes through four different names over the course of the next three years]. "To the oppressed: Young man anxious to help the oppressed, offers services free to all who need him. Apply box 25, post office"

No, really, that's all it says. He "offers services". God only knows what kind of services some people thought he was offering! But he receives sackfuls of mail, and picks out one particular letter. We see Rex in civvies for the first time here, in his apartment. He's got black hair, a conventional kind of face and (like all decent men in comics) wears a suit and tie at home. The letter is from a Mrs J Kennedy, worried that her unemployed husband, John, has fallen in with a bad crowd, who are "making a thief of him".

Interesting choice of name - future president John Kennedy was still a young man at the time, though the family was already famous. His father, Joseph, was US ambassador to Britain at this point, and so probably not in the American public's consciousness very much.

That night, Tick-Tock (as the narrative captions call him throughout) goes to see Mrs Kennedy, disguised in a trenchcoat, dark glasses and big hat. She tells him that John was talking in his sleep last night, and means to steal Miss van Shelton's pearls at the Beaux Arts Ball. Tick-Tock goes back to his laboratory, puts on his ring filled with tear-gas concentrate, and then "mixes a vial of the precious fluid that will make him insensible to harm and injury." This is the only time he uses Miraclo in liquid form; after this story it becomes a pill, and then later a ray device. He resolves to drink it at one minute to eleven, just before the grand march starts.

At the ball, Kennedy and his two no-good friends are making plans. A piece of paper blows into Kennedy's hands, bearing a message from the Hour-Man, warning him to go back to his wife and kids before it's too late. He gives it to the head bad guy, Randall, who shrugs it off. Hour-Man takes his Miraclo, uttering for the first time "Miraclo, do your stuff!", but then the lights go out. "With the extra-normal sight Miraclo gives him" (a super-power never mentioned again), Tick-Tock can see that the girl's pearls have been stolen. She herself realises this when the lights go back on - a caption tells us it's 11:15pm (keeping track of the time becomes the most recognisable trait of Hourman stories).

The villains drive away quickly, but Tick-Tock pursues them at super-speed. A police car also pursues the villains, and accidentally runs into the speeding hero (who's unharmed, thanks to Miraclo). Randall shoots the cops with his tommy-gun, making them crash into a store. But Hour-Man follows the crooks back to their hideout (arriving at 11:40), breaks in, and gasses them with his ring. Then he takes Kennedy up to the roof and threatens to throw him off unless Kennedy stops being a bad guy. I guess he decided it wasn't worth trying that with the other gang members, but it works with John Kennedy, at least.

The hour runs out, and Rex becomes his normal meek self again. "G-gosh, it's dark out here!" he stammers to himself. "I-I guess I'd better head for home!"

Next morning, John tells his wife he's going straight and "was a fool to think the world was against me!". Miss van Shelton finds that her pearls have been delivered to her. And Rex Tyler is berated by his boss [unnamed, but he becomes a regular supporting character eventually called Mr Bannerman or Bannermain] for being such a timid soul. The boss is a strange fellow, as we'll see in future stories.

Adventure Comics No. 49 (April 1940)
The cover of this one goes for a thrilling scene of pirates wrestling with natives, but there is a caption with a head-and-shoulders shot of our hero, boasting that Hour-Man is inside. Once again, his adventure is the first six pages of the comic, with another dramatic title page.

A Miss Drew has responded to the newspaper ad, telling Rex that her father, Dr Drew, has been missing for five days. Rex, not in disguise this time, promises to try to help. But then a detective collars him and asks what he's doing there, and they have the following fascinating conversation:

"I'm from the police! What did Miss Drew want with you?"
"Uh-er! My name is Tyler. I'm a scientist and she thought I might help find her father!"
"Tyler? Say, you don't happen to be Tick-Tock Tyler, the Hour-Man?"
"No, of course not! That guy's got plenty of courage! You'd better stick to your test tubes! If a gang has Dr Drew, it's no place for little boys like you!"
"I-I guess you're right!"

Why, Rex? Why, if you want to keep your identity secret, did you publicly announce that your superhero name includes your real surname?

Anyway, Rex makes himself a pill of Miraclo, puts on his Hourman costume, puts his suit and tie back on on top of it, and goes to search for clues outside Dr Drew's house. He finds a box of pills which the doctor "must have dropped as a clue" (how on earth he figures that, I can't imagine) and then is interrupted by a villain with a gun. He's taken to a cabin where the bad guy is going to tie him up and wait for his boss, but Rex slips the Miraclo pill into his mouth and strips off his clothes to reveal himself as Hour-Man! He threatens the bad guy, gets the information that the villains' hideout is in the hills and they have an autogyro to get them up there, then knocks the guy unconscious and catapults himself up to the hilltop using a handy springy sapling.

Atop the hill, he's attacked by a bear, but deals with it in two panels. He runs to the hideout, where the head villain is threatening Dr Drew and demanding "the formula". The doctor faints. Then the autogyro arrives, bringing Miss Drew, newly kidnapped herself. Hour-Man beats up and gasses the villains, but the head bad guy shoots him with "a secret ray gun", blinding him. He and Miss Drew are tied up, and Dr Drew agrees to work out the formula to save their lives. Hour-Man recovers, with only twenty minutes of Miraclo left (and only one page of comic left, so he really has to rush through this last bit), beats up the bad guys, chases after the lead villain who's trying to escape in the plane, grabs it and smashes it into the house, then runs away before his Miraclo wears out. The (rather badly paced) end.

Adventure Comics No. 50 (May 1940)
Cover star again. These cover scenes don't have anything to do with the plot of the comics, they're just generic hero poses. Much more care went into drawing covers than the interior art, because the covers are what made the kids buy them on impulse!

This month, Rex has a letter from James Carren, the owner of a racehorse. [This is the last story to start with a letter.] He's been threatened by gangsters working for a Nick Bates, insisting that he sell them a half share in his horse or suffer the consequences. Rex goes to Carren's hotel, claiming to be someone sent by Tick-Tock Tyler to ask for more information, and expresses moral outrage - "Racing when run honestly is truly the sport of kings! When run dishonestly it becomes a blemish on the face of all sports!" [Rigged boxing matches were the stereotypical comic story, but rigged horse racing was a close second place.]  They're interrupted by Bates and his gang, Carren refuses to deal with him, and the gangsters beat them up. Meek and mild Rex doesn't even try to fight back. They're both hospitalised, where Carren tells his story to a newspaper, annoying Bates and his henchmen.

Bates, knowing that the odds on the horse will now drop after all this exposure, resolves to bet on a different horse instead, and nobble Carren's. They have "perfect alibis" for the previous assault, and apparently no reason to fear the police will do anything to them.

Rex and Carren leave the hospital the next morning. On the street outside, they're immediately accosted by the gangsters and ordered to get into a car. Rex, terrified, runs away, leaving Carren in the hands of the villains. Note - this isn't some kind of plan to change into Hour-Man and come back and save Carren. He just runs away. In fact, he goes back to his office, to apologise to his boss for missing work ("I was only trying to sell Carren some horse lotion - then those men walked in!"). The boss derisively retorts "Horse lotion! That's about your speed! Get back to work or I'll fire you!" and goes to the races.

Rex hears a newsflash on the radio that "James Carren was found almost beaten to death on a Long Island road. He is given a fifty-fifty chance to recover!" [It seems that Hour-Man lives in New York this month.] This apparently convinces Tick-Tock that it's time to do something; he takes a Miraclo pill, changes into costume and heads for the racetrack. This is page five of a six-page story, and he's put on his hero togs for the first time! He spots Bates's thugs and beats them up until they tell him the plan. Another thug has a fake camera that will shoot a bullet at the horse as it passes; Hour-Man beats him up too, but then is hit over the head from behind by Bates himself.

With Hour-Man sitting there rubbing his head, Bates does indeed shoot at the horse, but only hits the jockey, who gamely clings on to the horse and wins the race. Hour-Man takes the baddies to the police and hurries back to the lab as Rex Tyler, where the boss asks him why he can't be as brave as Hour-Man.

New York World's Fair Comics No. 2 (Summer 1940)
The New York World's Fair ran for two years. When it originally opened in April 1939, the extensive marketing included an official comic book, priced at a whopping 25 cents, depicting all your favourite comic heroes going to the World's Fair. There weren't many superheroes at that point, of course, and Superman was new and unfamiliar enough that his hair was coloured yellow on the front cover! When the Fair re-opened for the 1940 season, they did another comic book for it (just fifteen cents this time, which wasn't bad for a colossal 96-page comic!) and this time Hour-Man was among the many heroes squeezed into it. I'm not sure if this comic was available for the April opening date or whether it came out later (it's not advertised in the other comics until later in the year), but the story in it seems to pre-date the "Minute Men" era, so this is as good a place to put it as any.

We open at "the Bannermain Laboratories" [given a name for the first time], where Rex Tyler's boss gives him an extraordinary speech: "Frankly, Tyler, I don't like to do it! But because I haven't anyone else to send, you get the World's Fair assignment! And Tyler, when you come back, I hope you'll show more gumption! I've never had a more spineless employee, and if you weren't a good chemist, I'd have fired you long ago!"

Is this really reasonable? He's a chemist! His job, as far as we can make out, involves mixing chemicals together and occasionally delivering them to customers. Is this really something that requires physical courage? Why does the boss get so worked up about it?

Anyway, Rex goes to the Fair and runs the Bannermain exhibit (which consists of mixing chemicals to make colourful smoke). A little girl is so impressed that she asks her wealthy father to invite Rex round to their country house, to show his exhibit to their guests. Rex cheerfully agrees, especially when he learns that little Rose is a big fan of the Hour-Man.

Next day, Rex drives out to the Rochester estate, but is flagged down along the way by gangsters, who steal his spare tyre. No, really, that's what they do. They beat Rex up and steal his spare tyre, because their own car has a puncture. When he wakes up, Rex follows the tyre tracks and finds that the gangsters have gone to the Rochester estate. He takes a Miraclo pill, takes off his clothes(apparently in broad daylight, standing on Mr Rochester's driveway, judging by the illustration showing him shirtless next to his car) and puts on his superhero costume. Once he's dressed, he sees a gangster kidnapping Rose. Hour-Man beats him up and learns that the bad guys are planning to rob the house while the posh people are out fox-hunting.

Our hero hurries back to the house, beats up the gangsters and (with Rose following on her pony) carries them off to Mr Rochester and his friends. They decide to use the head thug instead of a fox, and chase him through the fields on their horses, while Hour-Man and Rose watch and laugh.

Adventure Comics No. 51 (June 1940)
The Sandman gets the front cover this month, and Bernard Baily must have been rushed - no fancy lettering on the title page.

A mad scientist [no name given this month; see next issue] steals waxwork models of two dead gangsters from a museum and brings them to life with "artificial hearts and plastick-skin". He commands them to rob a bank, and it makes a great story in the papers. Rex Tyler reads about it over breakfast, changes into Hour-Man and goes to question the museum owner, who tells him he's installing another gangster waxwork today, and hopes it won't also be stolen.

Disguising himself as a night-watchman for some reason (his plan is to hide in the shadows and be seen by nobody, so I don't quite understand why), Hour-Man waits in the museum until the villains come to steal the statue. Then he changes back into his superhero costume and runs after their car, somehow believing that they won't notice him. They do notice him, and shoot away the wires holding up a bridge, making our hero fall down into the river below.

Undeterred by this, he climbs back up and follows the tyre-tracks to the mad scientist's hideout, where the waxwork has been brought to life in a very Frankenstein kind of way. Hour-Man sneaks into the hideout, but "breaks an invisible beam", alerting the gang to his presence. They run out and grab him, and just at that moment the Miraclo wears off, and Rex becomes his meek self again!

The mad scientist doesn't seem to think it strange that a meek, cowardly scientist, dressed as a superhero, has broken into his house in the middle of the night. He makes no attempt to restrain Rex, treating him like a guest who's just dropped by, and explaining how he "inoculates his pets with this reviving fluid" to bring them to life. He sends them out to rob an armoured truck, and then has a friendly chat with Hour-Man about science. After the scientist shows Rex the acid formula that is the only thing that can destroy his creations, Rex offers to show a formula of his own, and mixes up some liquid Miraclo.

Drinking it, he becomes courageous and strong again, punches the mad scientist, ties him up, takes the acid and sets out to stop the waxworks. He deals with them very quickly (there's only half a page left!) and "slips away unnoticed". There's no suggestion that he tells the police about the mad scientist.

Adventure Comics No. 52 (July 1940)
Hour-Man gets the front cover again, but loses his place at the start of the comic - this month, Sandman moves there, and Hour-Man's six pages are at the back. Very specific kind of cover picture, with a circus cashier in the background, but it's still nothing to do with what happens in this issue.

"In a laboratory", the boss introduces a new worker, Bob Wallace, to Rex Tyler. Rex didn't like to say so, being so meek, but they've got more work on at the moment than he can handle. "Disgusted with Tyler's meekness, the boss leaves," and the two scientists get acquainted. Wallace apparently works faster than Rex, though he's not as thorough. One day, Wallace points out a newspaper story saying that the Hour-Man robbed a bank the previous night. Rex is intrigued, and later goes out in costume to ask the bank's watchman about it. He uses some kind of gas from his ring to stop the watchman being afraid of him (another one-off power that is never seen again!)

The night watchman agrees that despite the costume, Tyler isn't the same person as the robber. "His eyes were kinda glassy," the watchman says, making Rex suspect the robber was hypnotised. He goes back to the lab, only to hear a radio news story saying that Hour-Man has just held up a theatre, using tear gas! Then Wallace staggers into the lab and faints. Hour-Man changes back into his civvies, and asks Wallace what's wrong. He says he was just walking past the lab and felt faint. Tyler offers to send for a doctor, a suggestion that inexplicably terrifies Wallace. "No! No! No doctor! He'll kill me! He'll kill me! No! No! Go away!"

Although Rex mentioned a minute ago that the Miraclo was still in effect, he apparently obeys Wallace's request. In the next panel, "As Tyler leaves," he finds a bill wrapper from the Metropolis Theater [I guess the lab is now in Metropolis, Superman's home town - the radio announcement called it the Palace Theater] outside the door. In the next panel after that, "next morning", somebody (Rex? It looks like him, but the art is scribbly this month and it's hard to tell. The story is incomprehensible, which is why I'm describing it panel by panel to try to make sense of what's going on...) complains to a policeman that he's received a note saying the Hour-Man will kill him. Then somebody bombs the building, and the police find an hourglass.

At home, Rex takes a Miraclo pill and gets into costume. As he's leaving his apartment, he sees Wallace getting into a car, and follows him to a house. He climbs up a tree, sees something through the window, is spotted by a thug, beats him up, then another Hour-Man comes out of the house. The real hero rips the impostor's mask off, revealing him to be Wallace. He demands Wallace tell him who's behind this, but they're interrupted by a man with a gun.

"Dr Snegg!" gasps Hour-Man. "Yes, Dr Snegg!" the villain replies. "You thought you finished with me - but I knew I'd get you with a decoy! I hypnotised Wallace and had him do my bidding! And now I'LL KILL YOU!"

Wait... who is this? He looks sort of like the mad scientist from last issue, but he was never given a name, wasn't a hypnotist and as far as we know was arrested at the end. I give up with this story. It makes no sense!

Okay... Hour-Man dodges the bullet Snegg fires at him. Snegg runs into the house. Hour-Man tries to follow him, but there's a big explosion of some kind. "Snegg went to blow up the mayor's house! You have to stop him!" Wallace says. Hour-Man runs to the mayor's house, gets him out just before it blows up, chases after Snegg's car, fires tear gas into his face, making the car crash into a rock (apparently fatally), then goes home and writes a letter to the mayor "explaining about Snegg and his use of Wallace", which will apparently sort everything out.

This is absolute gibberish, I'm sorry. Who wrote this one? Even the later story that turned out to be a dream made more sense than this! The final panel is an announcement that "The Hour-Man has a terrific surprise in store for you! Don't miss the next issue!" ... but before we get to that one, it's time for All-Star Comics!

All-Star Comics No. 1 (Summer 1940)
DC Comics, the leading publisher of comic books in America, had six monthly titles. Action Comics (starring Superman) and Detective Comics (starring Batman) were enormously popular and sold in the millions every month. The other four were More Fun Comics, Adventure Comics, Flash Comics and All-American Comics (the latter two were published through a sister company, but that doesn't become relevant to superhero comic history until Hourman is gone and forgotten, so it doesn't matter here). There was also a quarterly comic containing nothing but Superman stories, and they'd just launched a Batman equivalent too. But DC wanted to do something to boost the sales of their four 'lesser' comics, and All-Star was the answer. Each issue of All-Star comics would contain stories for two characters from each of the four comics, so that kids who only bought one of them a month would buy All-Star, learn about the other characters, and start buying the rest of DC's output too. Sensible strategy. The two characters they chose from Adventure comics were the Sandman and Hourman - Sandman gets top billing.

The inside front cover editorial welcomes new readers to the comic, and adds a PS - If there are any other features in "Adventure", "All-American", "Flash" and "More Fun Comics" which you would rather have us incorporate in the next issue of "All-Star Comics," we would appreciate hearing from you. There's a form to fill in, specifying which characters you think should be added, and which should be dropped. They must have had a lot of letters, because inviting reader feedback became a major part of All-Star after this! Hourman seems to have been popular enough to make the cut, at least at first, but that's probably because Adventure still only had the two superheroes...

Hour-Man's adventure is the seventh of the eight comic stories. The title page shows him wielding some kind of ray-gun, strangely enough. It appears to be shooting a bubble containing a brief introduction to the character (mis-spelling 'strength' as 'strenght'), and ending with "Today, as our story opens, we find him at a forest fire, which threatens a CCC camp..."

That would be the Civilian Conservation Corps, a volunteer service formed in 1933 with the intention of getting unemployed young men back into work. It kept going until 1942, by which time of course all the unemployed young men were in the army. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Tyler, out of costume, sprays chemicals on the fire to put it out. A CCC man thanks him, but then receives a letter (fired through his window attached to an arrow) saying that unless the camp clears out by tomorrow, there'll be MURDER!

That night, Tyler takes a Miraclo pill and changes into his costume. He heads down to Mill Meadow and hears a cry for help coming from a house. Inside, he finds two thugs who were threatening an old man and his daughter, wanting the deed to the house. Hour-Man suddenly grabs the father and daughter and carries them out of the house, which immediately explodes. He chases after a car, deducing somehow that "that must have been the dynamiter!", but then stops to pick up a wallet he finds on the street. It belongs to a John Blair, Real Estate and Investments.

He goes to Blair's penthouse office and tries to open the safe. Luckily, he's right to assume Blair is the leader of the villains, because he comes in at that point and sets his thugs on Hour-Man. He fights them off for a moment, but then the Miraclo runs out, and he "becomes meek and is made captive by Blair". Another thug arrives, having kidnapped the daughter, Peggy. He threatens her with a red hot poker until she confesses that the deed is hidden in a tree near the old mill. Blair and his henchmen leave, telling Hour-Man and Peggy not to escape (seriously, couldn't he have killed them, or something?). Despite this clear instruction, they untie each other's bonds, Rex takes another Miraclo pill, and they escape.

Hour-Man runs to the tree, beats up Blair and his henchmen, and then runs away before Peggy, arriving with the police, can thank him. He resolves that "hereafter, I'm going to watch the time!"

Adventure Comics No. 53 (August 1940)
The first five months of adventures basically show us what Hour-Man was doing before he discovered his purpose in life. This issue marks the start of a new era for him. He's back on the front page, he regains the first pages of the comic (eight of them, rather than six! He's got a promotion!), and he's acquiring a whole lot of new supporting characters!

The title page shows Hour-Man fighting a lion in a cage. This is probably what he told people he did, and the actual story that follows shows the truth... it also has an intro box saying that "Through the efforts of Rex Tyler, the young chemist whose discovery of the strength-giving 'Miraclo' has enabled him to become the 'Hour-Man', Appleton City, where he lives, has only a minimum of crime!" So it's "Appleton City" this week, is it? Once again, the name is only mentioned this one time.

At the lab, Rex's boss introduces a beautiful young woman as "Tyler, this is my niece! I want you to entertain her while she's visiting me!" (Once again, is this an appropriate thing for a boss to request a chemist who works for him to do?) He goes on to jeer "You mustn't mind him, Regina! He's got some sort of scary complex!"

"But you're not scared of me, are you, Mr Tyler?" asks Regina. "Er - n-no! Of course not!" stammers Rex.

There follows the greatest narrative caption in the history of Hour-Man and possibly all superhero comics. "But he is! Girls have always frightened him..." Yes, there's no doubt about it, Rex Tyler is a different kind of superhero. When even the narrator is laughing at you, you know you're never going to be Superman. Regina isn't much of a Lois Lane, either - though she does show up in a couple of other stories, we'll see later this issue that she can't compete with the Minute Men of America in his affections. This is, I think, the last story in which Rex is genuinely "meek". Meeting Jimmy seems to cure him of the condition, but before that moment, he really takes it to extremes this time!

Rex and Regina go to the zoo. A lion breaks out of its cage and starts running towards a little girl. "Mr Tyler! Do something!" Regina screams. "That girl will be killed!"

"We'll all be killed!" Rex yells. "I'm getting out of here!" He turns and runs away. He blunders into a hosepipe and accidentally sends it flying into the lion's face, knocking it cold. Just to be clear, the narrator spells out that this whole thing is a legitimate accident. Rex Tyler, seeing a lion attacking a small child, abandons the woman he's with and runs for his life. He's not pretending to be cowardly in order to protect his secret identity, he's just a spineless coward. But Regina thinks he was being brave, and gives him a kiss.

Elsewhere, at a factory, young boys are being horribly mistreated. "Overworked, undernourished and underpaid," one of them drops dead. Mr Tarreff, the boss, is unmoved. "Get Doc Blades to say it was heart failure!" he commands.

Since this is the twelfth time a child has died of heart failure in this factory, "an alert city-editor" notices the pattern and prints a story in the newspaper. Regina, reading the paper at dinner with Rex and the boss, is outraged and thinks something should be done about it. The boss dismisses the idea as silly, but Rex agrees with her. That night, he takes a Miraclo pill and goes to visit the boy's family.

The boy's name was Billy Martin. His brother Jimmy and his mother are at home, feeling very upset. Jimmy insists that Billy didn't die of a heart attack, and plans to tell the district attorney. Two thugs come in to beat him up and demand that he keep quiet, but then the Hour-Man enters and stops them! Jimmy tells him that a man called Roberts wants to buy the factory and make it more humane, but Tarreff wouldn't sell. Hour-Man goes to see Roberts and promises to do something about it. Roberts is pleased to hear it. He laments that "It's a shame to work kids the way he does! The kids' fathers can't work because their own children get the jobs at less pay!"

Seriously, this is less than eighty years ago, and it's presented as a controversial opinion that working small children to death is a bad thing. There's no suggestion that the law can do anything about it.

At the factory that night, Tarreff is installing a lot of heavy machinery in an unsafe building, safe in the knowledge that he'll "be in the clear" if anything bad happens. He notices that a grown woman seems to have started working there - it's Regina, trying to infiltrate the factory. Assuming she's a reporter, they drag her away and threaten her, but then Hour-Man bursts in! Just as he does, however, the ceiling starts to give way, and he has to hold it up while Tarreff and his henchman run for it.

Tarreff runs to a dishonest politician friend, but Hour-Man follows them and forces Tarreff to sign a bill of sale of the factory by the simple means of threatening to drop them out of the window. Then he runs them out of town, and goes to tell Jimmy Martin all about it.

In two pages possibly added on to the main story after the rest was written, Jimmy explains that he's a radio ham (and, since our hero doesn't seem to have heard of the concept, explains what a radio ham is). Hour-Man is delighted with the notion, and realises he could have a miniature short-wave radio fitted to his belt, and call Jimmy if he ever needs help.

"You mean I could help you?" gasps Jimmy. "I'll say you can!" says Hour-Man. "Why, we could form a club of boys all over the country. Each one could have a set like this one - then no matter where I'd be, if I needed help I could always get it!"

He goes on to christen the club "The Minute-Men of America! Fighting in the Hour-Man's army against crime and corruption!" and appoints "Minute Man Martin" as the first member. He goes on to talk to his new army over the radio, urging them to "strive for clean minds and bodies, obey your country's laws, love and honour your parents and to play fair always!" The final caption implores us to follow the adventures of the Hour Man and Minute Man Martin in every issue of Adventure Comics!

It's a story of its time, no question. Okay, despite the hysteria of certain American authorities in the early fifties, it's ridiculous to suggest that superheroes were up to anything dodgy with their child sidekicks. As someone wise once said, kids weren't expected to identify with 1940s superheroes. Back then, the superhero was your dad, and he took you with him on adventures. And that's exactly the innocent relationship that they all have. But Hour-Man goes a little bit further than most. The usual story was that the hero would adopt an orphaned boy, or else meet a smart kid who discovers his secret identity and asks to join him as a partner. But Jimmy doesn't ask to be a kid sidekick at all! The entire initiative comes from Hour-Man! He finds this child and unilaterally declares that from now on Jimmy will be his assistant, and will help him recruit other boys to join the club. And there's no sign of him so much as asking Mrs Martin's consent...

Adventure Comics No. 54 (September 1940)
Cover star again - pushing the Minute Men of America was obviously a big priority for the editors; kid sidekicks were still a brand new idea at the time (Batman acquired Robin in the April 1940 issue of Detective Comics), and the idea that kids would like to read about kids, as opposed to adults, was starting to take hold. This month's story takes up the first NINE pages of the comic!

After a title panel introducing Hour Man, Minute Man Martin and the army of Minute Men, we open this story in the home of banker Morvan. He, his wife and their young son Rodney are having an argument about Rod's membership of the Minute Men. "I insist you resign from that club immediately, Rodney!" says mother. "But mother!" replies Rodney, "The Minute Men perform real service, like the boy scouts!"

Mr Morvan insists that Rodney obey his mother, adding "Besides, I don't know the kind of people you're associating with! And this Hour-Man - bosh, a grown man with such ideas!" Reasonable arguments, some might say.

Rod meets Jimmy in the street and tells him he'll have to resign and give back his radio set. Jimmy tells him to do no such thing, to ignore what his parents tell him to do. He promises to talk to Hour-Man about it. But two sinister kidnappers have spotted Rod, and plan to kidnap him for ransom. At Rex Tyler's office, his boss reads about a wave of kidnappings and ransoms paid to a gang, and tuts that they should be stopped. Rex sagely agrees "I think it's a job for the law!" It's a bit strange - I don't claim to be an expert on America in 1940, but everybody in this story talks as if kidnapping wealthy people's children is an everyday occurrence, and to make a fuss about it would be weird.

Rod is duly kidnapped, and Jimmy runs to Hour-Man (who seems to be sitting waiting for him on a street corner) with the newspaper telling the news, and adding that Mr Morvan refuses to pay the ransom. Again, it's odd - Hour-Man and everyone else talks as if refusing to pay the kidnappers is peculiar behaviour; that Mr Morvan's decision to call the police is downright wrong. Hour-Man breaks into Morvan's house, fights his way past the police, grabs Morvan and takes him up on to the roof. He accuses Morvan of not loving his son, then departs to look for clues.

More great detective skills ahoy - assuming that Rod was probably kidnapped after school, Hour-Man goes to the school and finds some unusual crescent-shaped tyre marks. Somehow knowing that these must belong to the kidnappers (I mean, I know it was 1940, but there were still quite a few cars on the road even then!), he orders his Minute Men to go out and ask every tyre store in town if they've sold any tyres that look like that.

Jimmy gets on the radio, and a picture shows multiple boys listening to his message on their own radio sets. One of them is black, drawn in the way that one drew black people in 1940, but we shouldn't complain about a genuine attempt at inclusiveness and diversity. Another of them has a flat cap and a turtleneck sweater that obscures his mouth. You can see him on the cover up above, and you'll be seeing a lot more of him in future. He's the one who finds that the tyres (presumably the only crescent-patterned tyres in the universe) were sold to Ricky Maffiri, owner of the Blue Goose night club.

Meanwhile, the kidnappers, not having got their money, have kidnapped Mr Morvan too, and lock him up in a room with Rodney. At the same time, Hour-Man has arrived at the club where they're being held, but then his Miraclo runs out and he realises he forgot to bring any more of the stuff. He's captured and locked up as well, but he still has his radio and uses it to call Jimmy. He instructs Jimmy to come and rescue him, "and bring the small tin box in my desk, too!" (Jimmy, apparently, knows where Rex lives or works; if he owns a desk as Hour-Man it's the first we've heard about it). Jimmy rounds up the boys, and brings the pills to Hour-Man (passing them to him through the 'small' window of the room he's locked in).

Hour-Man breaks loose, beats up some thugs, and when the rest run away they're attacked by a charging mob of Minute-Men. While the small boys beat up the hardened criminals, Hour-Man chases after Maffiri and forces his car into a police station. Mr and Mrs Morvan apologise to Rodney and allow him to remain a Minute Man. The final panel invites readers to write to Hour-Man (care of Adventure Comics) and tell him what they like best about the Minute-Men. The ten best letters will receive a one dollar prize, and an autographed picture of the Hour-Man and Minute-Man Martin!

Adventure Comics No. 55 (October 1940)
Back to the generic hero-poses for the cover, as Hour-Man throttles a bad guy with a neatly-labelled "dynamite exploder". Inside, the wording on the title page is now getting silly. It reads: Presenting "Tick-Tock" Tyler (the man of the hour) as the HOUR MAN with MINUTE MAN MARTIN, leader of the MINUTE MEN OF AMERICA, by Bernard Baily. The picture alongside all those words is making its first appearance here, but becomes the standard for a while, photostatted into every new story. It depicts Hour-Man marching towards us; behind him on the right is Jimmy Martin, a little further back on the left is the one with the flat cap and turtleneck (whose name will soon turn out to be Thorndyke), and in the distance behind them are several more Minute Men.

The opening info box tells us that Cosmos, that thriving city in which the Hour Man lives and works as Rex Tyler, meek and mild chemist, is experimenting with student government in the form of "Boys' Week"... its purpose is to show students how a big city is run by allowing them to take over the town.

This is a weird city, isn't it? It's no surprise that it comes up with strange ideas like that, when you consider that it changes its name every week. Who thought "Cosmos" was a good name for a city? And I notice that girls aren't included in the whole "student government" thing, of course. Just boys. Anyway, a couple of gangsters are quite pleased with the news, thinking that a bunch of children won't be able to stop their organised crime mob. But the new boy mayor, one John Greene, appoints Jimmy Martin as his police commissioner. The boys are all sworn in, the city council wish them good luck and apparently depart on holiday for a week, and what could possibly go wrong?

Well, one newspaper dares to suggest there might be a problem with all this: "This newspaper, while lauding the progressiveness of Cosmos, nevertheless wonders whether it is wise to leave this city in the hands of untrained boys." That journalist probably feels like the only sane person in a madhouse. Mrs Martin reads the newspaper, but Jimmy reassures her that the Minute Men will make good.

Meanwhile, Rex Tyler is at work, and his boss tells him off for not sending out a delivery of sleeping gas. Rex points out that they haven't got a permit, and they're only allowed to send the stuff to hospitals, but the boss tells him to get it sent anyway. Rex decides to take it himself (since their delivery boy doesn't want to miss the Minute Men meeting), and delivers the package to a shady bunch of crooks who really obviously aren't a hospital. Rex resolves to investigate them... after the Minute Men meeting. "I don't want to disappoint the boys!"

He takes his Miraclo pill and runs to the meeting, which is soon interrupted by an alert on the police radio that the Apex Theatre has been robbed. Jimmy remembers that he's the police commissioner and wonders what he should do; Hour-Man suggests he get someone to take him there in a police car. It turns out that crooks robbed the place using sleep gas, and they're doing the same with a bank right now. They hijack another police car, with another boy inside, and make their getaway, but Hour-Man gives chase. The crooks are ready for him, though - the exhaust pipe of the car shoots sleeping gas and knocks him out. The captured Minute Man drops a handkerchief as a clue.

When Hour-Man wakes up, he reads the message - "They are going to rob the Lyceum Theatre next! - Minute Man Cosgrave". Either he wrote on both sides while the gangsters weren't looking, or Hour-Man's a bit dim; he holds the hankie up with the message facing away from him.

As it happens, Jimmy Martin has already posted "men" (ie boys) at the Lyceum, but when the thugs arrive with guns, the boys all run away and let them rob the place. Hour-Man arrives (too late) and tells the boys he thinks he knows where the gang's hideout is. He tells Jimmy to call all the Minute Men to assemble, "and tell them to bring STICKS!" And it's a good thing he does, because when he bursts into the warehouse to confront the crooks, his Miraclo wears off and he's captured. But then the stick-wielding boys arrive, beat up the villains and take them to the courthouse where they're sentenced to twenty years apiece. The "Boys' Week" is acclaimed as a great success!

All-Star Comics No. 2 (Fall 1940)
The letters have been flooding in to All-Star Comics; Biff Bronson and Gary Concord have been dropped, replaced by more superheroes. And now the readers are asked to vote for which character should be the third, after Superman and Batman, to get his own quarterly comic book. I wonder how many votes Hourman got? In any case, he doesn't make it onto the cover of this one, but he gets a very atmospheric title page for his story!

Robert T Davis, owner of the Eagle Mine, has gone to see the clairvoyant Dr Morte, in hopes of communicating with his late wife Clara. Dr Morte, a shameless fraudster, quickly looks her up in Who's Who, confident of getting enough information to fool the gullible rich man. "Clara" tells him to bring all his money and jewels to her grave, so she can see them, and Davis agrees without question.

At the Bannerman Laboratories, Rex Tyler's boss (who turns out to be Davis's brother-in-law), rants about Davis's idiocy. Tyler sympathises, and secretly resolves to call in the Minute Men to investigate Dr Morte. He, meanwhile, is chuckling about his victims' stupidity with his associate "Longo", a very tall, very ugly, former circus freak.

The Minute Men assemble at Hour-Man's command (incidentally, Rex isn't seen to take a Miraclo pill), and are ordered to prevent Davis entering the cemetery. Hour-Man goes to Morte's house, and sees that he's packed his bags ready to leave town. Morte drives away, and Hour-Man follows him.

The boys fail to persuade Davis not to go to his wife's grave, and three of them go to check out Morte's house. The distinctive-looking one is finally referred to by name - Thorndyke. He tells them "Don't call me Thorndyke!", but since he never says what he'd like to be called instead, we're stuck with that name, I'm afraid (a much later story reveals that Thorndyke is his first name, his surname is Tompkins). Incidentally, a Dr Robert Thorndike, educational psychologist, was an advisor to DC Comics. Thorndyke gets into the house and is terrified by Longo. The boys run away.

Morte is in a mausoleum, where he has a microphone connected to a speaker at Clara's grave. But the plan goes awry when Hour-Man bursts in, and Davis hears the conversation they have. Then all that remains is to save the boys from Longo (Hour-Man arrives just in time to catch the club he hurls at Thorndyke's head), and to belatedly explain the finer details of Morte's plot - Longo was going to run out and scare Davis, to make him leave the money and jewels lying on the grave so Morte could steal them. Davis apologises for being a fool, and vows to "see to it that Dr Morte is exposed!"

Adventure Comics No. 56 (November 1940)
On the cover, our hero grapples with some kind of big cat. Which, I'm sorry, just reminds me of the time he ran away from the lion.

Inside the comic, American military installations along the east coast are suffering mysterious explosions (the USA was still a long way away from joining the war at this point, remember). The FBI in Washington DC are puzzled and unable to find any clue as to who's doing it and how. Meanwhile, Rex Tyler, "in a far off city", is packing his suitcase and talking to himself about how much he's going to enjoy every minute of his week's vacation, camping on Lonely Island with the Minute Men. But then the phone rings - it's his boss, who's clearly no respecter of things like vacations, and tells Rex he's got to go and do an important quick job for a customer. Dr Slight, the owner of Castle Doom.

Yes, Castle Doom. Luckily, Castle Doom is close to Lonely Island (great place to take the kids, Rex), so he won't be too badly delayed. Rex's black hair, incidentally, is highlighted with a lot of red in this issue; in some panels he looks positively ginger. He radios Jimmy and tells them to go ahead and he'll catch up with them ("Yes sir!" replies Jimmy, "We're all ready to go - including Thorndyke!") and goes to Castle Doom. It's an actual castle, surrounded by a moat, and he has to shout for Dr Slight to lower the drawbridge. He does so, but warns Rex that his giant, vicious dog, Devil-Boy is loose. Rex just manages to escape the vicious beast by leaping on to the lowering drawbridge.

Dr Slight comes out to meet him, and stops the dog in its tracks with a single wave of his hand. He explains that he has "excellent hypnotic powers", but his eyes and hands aren't as steady as they once were, hence his request to Bannerman to send some help with his chemical experiments. Rex gets through the work quickly enough, and notices that the doctor has newspaper clippings about those mysterious explosion. On the way out, Dr Slight shows Rex his interesting statue of a winged horse, explaining that circuses are another hobby of his. Rex changes into his Hourman costume and goes out to the island, where the Minute Men (Jimmy, Thorndyke and one other boy, who's big and fat but never gets a namecheck) are waiting for him. "Sorry I'm late! But now let's have some fun. What'll we do?" our hero asks. But before they can decide what fun to have on the lonely island, there's a massive explosion on the mainland - the munitions dump has been bombed! The radio announces that the watchman has clearly gone crazy, since he says that a flying horse bombed the place.

Hourman sends the boys to check out the local circus, having a hunch there might be a connection, and goes himself to see the watchman. He's been confined to a hospital and apparently tied to a chair in a straitjacket. When two hospital attendants come in, Hourman beats them up and leaves, advising the watchman to stick to his story. He then notices the circus people on their way to blow up the power station. The strongman, Sandow (named after the famous bodybuilder or the wrestler who used his name, but it changes to "Sandor" the second time it's mentioned) attacks, but when Hourman hits him, he breaks into little pieces of rock. So do all the other circus freaks. Then the power station explodes, and Hourman sees a flying horse escaping the scene.

He goes to the circus, where all the acts have disappeared. After talking with the Minute Men, Hourman runs to Castle Doom, where sure enough the statues have vanished. But he falls down a hole and into a "transparent steel coffin", with Dr Slight gloating over him. Dr Slight explains how he was able to create his circus army - "A secret chemical of mine. I can give life to plaster casts and direct them by means of a special machine." Then on his monitor he sees the boys scaling the castle wall, and sends some more freaks to pour acid on them.

This reminds Hourman that he's got some acid in his ring, and he uses it to escape the coffin. He punches Dr Slight (apparently killing him!), which makes all the animated statues crumble to nothing. He and the boys go back to the island to sit around the campfire and reflect that this was an adventure they'll never forget. 

Adventure Comics No. 57 (December 1940)
That's an interesting cover scene. The man Hourman is waving above his head looks a bit like his boss, Mr Bannerman, although that probably wasn't the intention. Thorndyke and Jimmy look a bit concerned, though...

Inside the comic, the intro box specifies that "no one, not even Jimmy Martin, captain of the Minute Men of America, knows his real identity, nor that Miraclo gives him extra-human powers for only one hour." So when he was camping with them for a week, did he secretly take a pill every hour to maintain his extra-human powers? Is he constantly doped-up nowadays? See, this is why people accuse him of being a drug addict...

Anyway, we open on Wide Island, where the mad scientist Dr Togg is stereotypically vowing that "Heh! Heh! Laugh at me, will they? Soon they shall know! Heh! Heh! They won't laugh at Dr Togg anymore! The world and all its goods will be mine with my little pets! Police? Bah!" His little pets have been created from wolves and buzzards. As in, they have the bodies of wolves and the heads of buzzards.

Meanwhile, Hour-Man is late for a meeting with the Minute Men. He takes his Miraclo pill and hurries over there to conduct the pledge of loyalty. After that's done, they receive an SOS call from 'an ailing member', who has noticed from his sickbed that the bank over the road is being robbed. Our heroes head out there to stop the crooks. The bandits have two cars - Hourman pushes one of them off course to crash into a fire hydrant, then saves Thorndyke from being run over by the other. The Minute Men have made a barrier in the street with fruit carts and boxes, and the car crashes into it. The crooks are arrested and the boys are praised for their heroism.

Dr Togg, though, has now created an all-new monster, with a wolf's body and head, and eagle wings and claws. It can also talk in simple phrases, and has 'slippery skin' that nobody can hold except Dr Togg with his 'special gloves'. He puts it into a mould, creates lots of them, and calls them the Gombezi. He sends them out to rob trains and banks.

Rex reads the newspaper and finds out about the mysterious robberies. He also sees that a ship carrying valuable radium will be docking tonight, and assumes that will be the next target. He takes his pill, gets into costume and calls Jimmy, telling him to get all the Minute Men out to Wide Island, with butterfly nets. To catch the Gombezi in, of course - I don't think Bernard Baily quite understood the intentions of the script here, because the monsters are drawn the size of big dogs, and the nets our heroes wield look rather too small...

Hourman goes out to the ship in a speedboat (it's referred to as "his speedboat", but where he got it isn't explained), but too late to stop the Gombezi stealing the radium. He chases them back to the island, where the boys are waiting up trees with their nets. They catch all but one of the monsters, and Hourman pursues that one back to Dr Togg's lab, where he blinds it with tear gas. He's then attacked by the wolf-buzzards while Dr Togg gloats on a television screen (full colour, too! He's advanced for 1940!) but blows them up with an explosive he finds on the table. The lab explodes, but Hour-Man escapes without injury, and announces that "it's the finish of those creatures, and their evil creator!"

But the final panel says "But has the Hour-Man made a mistake? Is the terrible Dr Togg really dead? Or has he escaped to unleash new terrors on society? Don't miss the chapter of the Hour Man and the Minute Men of America in Adventure Comics!" You'd think, from reading this, that Dr Togg is going to be back next month, wouldn't you? But no, he isn't. We never see him again.

And over the page, the ten winners of the best letters about the Minute Men are announced. They each win a dollar and a "personally autographed drawing". Presumably the same drawing that is printed on this same page, but I guess it was more exciting if you got it in the post along with a cheque for a dollar and a letter of congratulations. Interestingly, the blurb says they received "hundreds" of letters - things like the requests for letters in All-Star Comics are always said to get "thousands" of replies...

Adventure Comics No. 58 (January 1941)
Okay, I'm sure he isn't, but doesn't it look like our hero is pushing that go-kart INTO the path of the car, rather than out of it?

A train carrying payrolls speeds thru the night (American comics always say 'thru'), with Sam and his younger colleague Bob in charge of the baggage car. When the train arrives at Carrera Hills station [possibly another new name for Hour-Man's city this week], it's held up by two men with guns. Sam is shot in the arm, and the crooks get away with $10,000.

At work the next day, Rex and his boss discuss the crime. The boss displays a new side to his irrational character starting from this issue - "I'll bet the Hour-Man is mixed up in this!" he raves. Rex points out that Hour-Man works for, not against, the law, to which the boss replies "Neverless! This was a well planned job! Even the FBI is stumped! And they found a bullet from a foreign gun in the wounded man's arm! A brainy guy like the Hour-Man could easily have pulled this!"

Later, Rex gets a call from Jimmy - Minute-Man Burns, younger brother of Bob, explains that his brother has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the robbery. Hour-Man breaks into the FBI building and talks to Bob, who explains that he was found in possession of a $10 bill stolen in the heist. He explains that he possibly got it from Sam. Two FBI men then come into the room, and the Hour-Man beats them up and escapes through the window. Maybe people wouldn't keep thinking he's a crook if he'd stop gratuitously beating up law enforcement personnel!

Sneaking past the police, Hour-Man goes to Sam's hotel and finds him being threatened by gangsters. He explains (after the hero has done his stuff) that they are Nick Remos's men. "Nick Remos - the gangster, eh? I know his place!" Hour-Man says. I wonder why he hasn't done anything about Nick Remos yet, if he's so familiar with him? Now, though, he resolves to pay the gangster a visit. He goes to his apartment, finds him and his men with the loot and foreign gun, but is blinded by tear gas and captured.

Then Sam comes in, and is revealed to have been on the gangsters' side all along. Hour-Man sneakily turns on the radio on his belt, and the conversation is heard by the Minute Men and the FBI agents currently talking with them. Hour-Man subtly gives them all the information they need, telling the gangsters holding him at gunpoint "If my Minute Men knew you were here at 113 ELM STREET, they'd wreck the place!"

The boys get into action - Thorndyke chips in another "Don't call me Thorndyke!" - and the FBI agents follow after them ("Come on! Those kids are going to need help!"). In the remaining half-page, Hour-Man beats up the thugs, as they run away they're set upon by the Minute Men, they're all turned over to the FBI, and Bob thanks the heroes for clearing his name. Thorndyke waves his flat cap in the air in celebration - he's got scruffy black hair, nothing like the bizarre style he sports in later stories.

All-Star Comics No. 3 (Winter 1941)
This is a very important one in comics history. The third issue of All-Star comics features the founding of the first ever superhero team! Characters from different comics get together, interact with each other and form a society! Strangely enough, it's never happened before - up until now, each superhero has existed in their own little world; the idea of a shared universe is new and radical. And our hero, Hour-Man, is there with them - albeit rather making up the numbers...

Anyway, this first story of the Justice Society of America takes the form of a dinner in a hotel. They haven't banded together to pool their resources to fight crime, they're just eight men with the same hobby, and they've decided to get together socially one evening. Superman and Batman, it's explained, are too busy to come along. Our heroes are a mixed bunch, in terms of power levels - the Spectre is basically God, he can do anything and his adventures generally involve fighting ancient demons from the dawn of time in epic battles where they throw planets and stars at each other. The Atom's "super-power" is the fact that he is of slightly below average height. Hourman comes somewhere in between the two extremes.

What happens in this issue is that Johnny Thunder, comedy character from Flash Comics, gatecrashes the meeting and suggests that they each tell the story of their greatest adventure. The framing sequence doesn't consist of much more than that; Hourman chips in a word or two to the conversation (laughing at Johnny Thunder's antics; laughing at the other comedy character who briefly joins the get-together), but the only part of the comic he really features in is his own tale. It's basically a standard Hourman story, except with his own narration rather than the usual omniscient comic narrator. Also, perhaps because he's in the company of superheroes and wants to impress them with his manliness, the Minute Men aren't in it. Regina is.

Rex Tyler's boss orders him to escort Regina to a costume ball that evening (this story probably takes place around the time of Adventure #53 when she was visiting her uncle) at the Durant Estate, where valuable diamonds will be on display. Rex isn't sure what to go as - he suggests maybe he could dress as Hour-Man. This tickles the boss, who agrees to pay for the costume (Rex takes the money and gives it to charity). So, in costume, but telling everyone he's Rex Tyler, he goes to the ball with Regina (dressed as a gypsy). Funnily enough, there are five other men there dressed in Hour-Man costumes too. And they're crooks, planning to rob the diamonds. Assuming Rex is part of the gang, they tell him to ditch the girl and get to work. Rex takes a Miraclo pill and prepares for action.

The gang pull guns, shoot the security guards and steal the diamonds. Rex tries to stop them, and there's a confusing fight between multiple Hourmans before the lights go out and the gang get away. Mr Durant, owner of the diamonds, addresses Regina as "Miss Paige" at this point - next time we see her, her name will be Bannerman, like her uncle. Rex runs from the arriving police, who assume everyone dressed as Hourman must be a crook, and finds himself in Durant's study, where he sees some interesting papers. When the police find him, he beats them up and runs. Seeing the crooks leaving in a boat, he swims after them to an island and sees them in a hut. They capture him, but he beats them all up, and also Durant when he comes to join them. The diamonds are fake, the whole thing is an insurance scam to raise money to pay off Durant's debts. Rex, still claiming to be Rex Tyler wearing an Hourman costume, takes them to the police and turns them in. Regina is impressed.

After all the stories have been told, the issue ends with the JSA receiving an invitation from the FBI chief in Washington (his name isn't mentioned, but that would be J Edgar Hoover) to come down and see him, "next Tuesday night". That's set-up for the next issue. We're promised that the next issue of All-Star will reveal which hero is getting his own quarterly comic like Superman and Batman. At the time of going to press, they've had 7700 postcards with nominations! And apparently All-Star is so popular that it's going to become bi-monthly instead of quarterly! Hourman's in on the ground floor of something big...

Adventure Comics No. 59 (February 1941)
Sad to say, this is the last time Hourman appears on the cover of Adventure Comics. He's supplanted by newer and cooler superheroes once he's been around for a whole year...

"Because of their excellent work against crime and criminals," the info box tells us, "the Minute Men of America, sponsored by the Hour-Man (in reality Rex Tyler, a chemist) have been given a week-end vacation at a camp in the hills." That was nice of Rex, wasn't it? Jimmy and a couple of others are enjoying themselves at the campsite, waiting for Hour-Man to join them, when Thorndyke comes running up at top speed - a man's drowning!

The boys run to the river, where they rescue the man and Jimmy applies artificial respiration. He comes round, and confusedly says he was running away, got lost, and fell in the river. "I've got to get away!" he says. But then two men come and grab him, saying he has to come back to the sanatorium. When Jimmy protests, one of them points a gun at the boys, telling them not to interfere. Hour-Man arrives at just the right moment and beats up the guards. The rescued man introduces himself as John Grant, a patient at Dr Feher's place, and the guards insist he has to come back there with them. Hour-Man tips him a wink, and tells him to go back peacefully.

When the men have left, Hour-Man goes to investigate, telling the Minute Men to wait behind in case he needs them. Looking through a window, he sees Dr Feher hypnotising another patient, Carter, before the guards arrive back with Grant. Hour-Man bursts in to fight them, but "by mental telepathy" Feher orders Carter to hit him over the head with a chair. Feher hypnotises him too, and orders a guard and Carter to go and rob Carter's house, leaving Hour-Man there to take the blame.

Thorndyke and another boy have disobeyed orders and gone to check out the sanatorium themselves. In the grounds, they're stopped by a guard with a gun and thrown into "the chamber". Elsewhere, the hypnotised Carter is robbing his own safe, when Hour-Man reveals that he was just pretending to have been hypnotised ("my will was the stronger") - he punches the guard and locks him in a closet. Freeing Carter from his hypnosis (by saying "I am the stronger will! I command your release!"), the two of them then go to see the doctor who referred Carter to Dr Feher in the first place. They find that he has also been hypnotised by Feher, so as to send the villain all his wealthy patients. Then Hour-Man gets a call for help on his belt-radio from Thorndyke, and hurries back to the sanatorium, meeting Jimmy and the Minute-Men along the way.

There's no mention of Miraclo in this issue, and you'd think that this adventure, which has involved multiple car journeys, would have lasted more than an hour by now, but maybe he's been taking pills off-panel whenever there was a spare moment. Anyway, Thorndyke and his friend are in a dungeon and being threatened by a horrible big bald man with a red hot poker when Hour-Man arrives and punches him unconscious. Feher comes in with a gun, but is jumped by the boys. Back at the camp, they toast another successful adventure (with glasses of milk), while Thorndyke grumbles about having to wash the dishes.

Adventure Comics No. 60 (March 1941)
The Sandman takes over the front cover, but Hourman still hangs on to the first eight pages.

At a gang leader's hideout, the gang have decided to do something about the Minute-Men. They send one of their top tough guys out to talk to a gang of good-for-nothing troublemaker kids. Impressed that an important gangster is talking to them, the kids readily agree to go out and cause trouble while claiming to be the Minute-Men! Windows are smashed, car tyres slashed, pushcarts overturned, and soon the police come around to a Minute-Men meeting and arrest captain Jimmy Martin. Hour-Man comes in and says Jimmy had better go with the cops, but he'll try to sort it out with the commissioner.

Hour-Man keeps a watch on police headquarters, and when he sees that the commissioner and Jimmy are alone in a room, jumps in the window. But the commissioner immediately calls policemen into the room, and so Hour-Man runs off again. Just then, he gets a radio call from Thorndyke, saying they've got trouble. Tough kids are getting ready to vandalise some baby carriages. Hour-Man comes along, grabs one of the kids and gets him to name the gang leader behind it - Ratty Malone. He hands the troublemaker over to Thorndyke and the boys and goes to Ratty's pool room headquarters.

He bursts into the room, fells one gangster with a flying kick, but then is knocked out by a thrown pool ball. The gang tie him up, and go out to "swipe some silk from a China ship", intending to leave the hero's hourglass lying at the scene of the crime to frame him. "When we come back, we'll take care of you," he threatens. Hourman escapes from his bonds by picking up a pool cue with his feet, throwing it through the skylight and cutting his ropes with broken glass. He radios the Minute-Men and tells them to come to the docks, bringing their prisoner and telling the commissioner to come along too, with Jimmy. He runs to the ship, beats up the gang, and turns them over to the police.

The troublemaking youth is unimpressed by Ratty's craven pleading for mercy, and gives up wanting to be a gangster. Jimmy invites him to join the Minute-Men instead. The commissioner thanks Hour-Man, and asks him who he really is, at which our hero runs away into the night.

All-Star Comics No. 4 (March-April 1941)
Over in All-Star Comics, the Justice Society are ready for their first mission! The heroes, including Hourman, all converge on the FBI headquarters in Washington, where the chief (unnamed and only seen from behind) gives them their orders. They need to stop an organisation of fifth-columnists from dictator nations! "Their bunds and other organisations are planning ways of overthrowing America and giving all its gold and wealth to the totalitarian powers!"

This is quite radical for early 1941 - the story will have been written about a year before the USA eventually joined the second world war. And this from the same company that in late 1939 was running an editorial on the front page of All-American Comics urging the young people of America to stay neutral and not get the country involved in Europe's disputes. The story sets the format for all future Justice Society adventures - each member is given an individual misson to complete, and then they all get together on the last couple of pages to resolve things. So each hero has their own story in which they thwart one particular plot of "the Grey-Shirts" and find that the leader is one Fritz Klaver. The Flash goes first, and his story is followed by an announcement that he's the lucky hero who'll get his own quarterly comic. They ask readers to suggest a name for it - the editors seem genuinely without a clue, since he already appears in the anthology called "Flash Comics"! "An example of a possible title would be 'Jay Garrick, the Flash', or 'The Adventures of the Flash' etc - as long as it doesn't sound too much like 'Flash Comics'."

It ended up being called "All-Flash Comics" in the end. But anyway, Hour-Man takes his turn - he's ordered to the oil fields of Red River, Oklahoma, where the subversive activities of the Grey-Shirts are "seriously hampering the country's oil output". Masters, the foreman of an oil field, reports to the local leader of the Grey-Shirts that the well is still under surveillance from new security guards, getting in the way of their plan to dynamite every oil well in Oklahoma. Erdner orders Masters to have the guards killed. Sure enough, in the dead of night, they're done away with. "No one will work for us after this!" Masters tells the owner, Mr Ryan, but Ryan insists on advertising for new men, at fifty dollars a day.

Only one person applies for the job - Rex Tyler, disguised as an unemployed worker [there's no mention of his day job as a chemist here - did he take a couple of days off? I'd like to see how he explained it to his boss...]. Masters tries to subtly suggest he might not want the job, and then when that fails, phones his associates to tell them to nobble Rex on his way to work. Rex eavesdrops on the phone call, gets into costume, takes a Miraclo pill, and goes out to surprise the two men waiting in ambush on the road to the oil field. He beats them up, changes back into his normal clothes and cheerfully reports for duty.

When Masters goes to see his men to find out what went wrong, Rex changes back into costume and follows him to a hut, where he beats up the whole lot of traitors. Masters and Erdner escape in a car, but Hour-Man (realising his Miraclo is about to wear off), grabs a dropped briefcase and hurls it at the driver's head, making it crash into an oil well with a massive explosion. This is presented as being a good thing, even though he came there to PREVENT the oil wells from being blown up. Anyway, the conspiracy is dealt with, and he's found a piece of paper naming the Grey-Shirts' leader as Fritz Klaver in Toledo.

At the end of the comic, all the heroes (including Johnny Thunder, who in his usual way butted in uninvited) converge on the Grey-Shirts' headquarters where the Atom has been captured. They all beat up the Grey-Shirts, although Hourman doesn't seem to do anything; he just stands behind Hawkman in one panel. Fritz Klaver tries to blow up the house with everybody in it, but Dr Fate just stops him with a wave of his magic hand [both Dr Fate and the Spectre at this point have more than enough magic power to end war and injustice forever; we just have to assume they don't want to], the villains are brought to Washington and Hourman stands silently among the other heroes while they're congratulated by the FBI chief. The end of the comic promises great thrills in the May-June issue of All-Star, but as it turned out there was some delay, and when it eventually came out it was dated June-July. That gives Hourman time for three more solo adventures before he next meets up with his heroic friends...

Adventure Comics No. 61 (April 1941)
Adventure Comics has a brand new hero! Starman, with his shiny red suit and mighty gravity rod, has taken over the front cover and the opening pages of the comic. Hourman's stories are dropped towards the back, just after "Peter and his Pup" and the quiz page. This story also sees the last appearance of the standard title-panel illustration of him, Jimmy and Thorndyke.

Hour-Man speeds thru the night (seemingly just out for a run), and comes across a gang of thugs loading boxes into a van outside the museum. He's going to beat them up, when he's distracted by a cry for help from inside the building - it's the watchman, lamenting that he's been hit over the head and the robbers have taken The Monsters of Yesterday! While Hour-Man was inside, the crooks have got away, and "there's no use looking for them now" [I guess he doesn't feel like doing his usual trick of following the tyre-marks today]. Unfortunately, the blow to the head has unhinged the watchman a little, and he becomes convinced that Hour-Man is part of the gang, and yells for the police. Our hero runs away.

Next morning, in the lab, the boss is reading the newspaper with outrage (the headline reads "Hour-Man On Rampage!! Steals Animated Models Of Prehistoric Beasts!!") and goes to immediately write a letter to the police commissioner. He probably does that quite a lot. Rex knows he has to do something to clear his name, "but what? I haven't a single clue!" He really isn't trying, is he? He normally goes out and investigates. Or asks the boys to. Strangely, he doesn't contact the Minute-Men at all.

Meanwhile, the head bad guy, Whistler or Whistle [both versions are used, roughly equally], tells his thugs to stop laughing about Hour-Man getting all the blame, and get on with forcing the professor they've kidnapped to finish his work. He finishes the job quickly enough - the dinosaurs can now be piloted by a thug, and shoot flame from their nostrils. "Tonight we strike!", Whistler exults.

That night, sure enough, the dinosaurs attack an art exhibition, smashing their way inside and allowing the crooks inside to steal the valuable paintings. The police can do nothing to stop them, but then Hour-Man arrives, takes a Miraclo pill and jumps on top of a dinosaur, firing tear gas from his ring. The mobsters inside make the beast flick its head and throw Hour-Man into a wall, hitting his head and falling unconscious.

The robbers return to their secret hideout, but the dinosaurs catch the attention of Thorndyke, who happens to be passing by on his paper round. He runs to get the Minute Men, but is spotted and grabbed by a crook and taken inside. The crook shows his captive to Whistle, who exclaims "Thorndyke! That's too bad!" - I guess Thorndyke is a local celebrity now. Mr Whistle explains his evil scheme - all it is is that he likes art, but can't afford the particularly valuable paintings, so spent a lesser amount of money paying criminals to steal them with flame-nostrilled dinosaurs. He locks Thorndyke up with the professor, where he just uses his radio to call Hour-Man.

Our hero, meanwhile, is still lying unconscious on the street, and has been found by the police, who decide to arrest him. "Try and make the commissioner believe this guy isn't the head of the mob! Come on! We'll take him down!" The commissioner was very friendly with Hour-Man a couple of months ago. Maybe it's a new guy. Hour-Man wakes up just in time to get Thorndyke's cry for help, as do Jimmy and the Minute Men, back at their base. A huge mob of boys runs to Whistle's place, and distract the policemen guarding Hour-Man long enough for him to get away. He gets to Whistle and forces him to confess, while Thorndyke and the Minute Men control the dinosaur. All works out happily in the end, and Thorndyke winks at the readers. "Ain't we terrific?"

Adventure Comics No. 62 (May 1941)
Our title picture this week is certainly dramatic and exciting, but it's nothing to do with the story that follows. I'd personally rather read the adventure of the giant green man who's captured the miniature Thorndyke, but no such luck.

Rex is hurrying to deliver a package in time to go home and change for the Minute Men meeting tonight, when he sees a boy nearly being run over by a car. The boy says he doesn't care if he gets run over, he doesn't want to go back to Castle Manor. However, a burly chauffeur comes to drag him away. Rex resolves to investigate, after the meeting.

Tommy is taken back to his cruel uncle Perry, who slaps him in the face and orders him to be locked up with nothing to eat. Perry thinks to himself that it wouldn't do to lose Tommy now, with the executors coming to check up on how he's handling the boy's estate. But as the chauffeur escorts Tommy to his prison, Tommy's vicious dog Thunder breaks his chains and attacks the man, allowing the boy and dog to run away.

At the Minute Men meeting, Hour-Man is still thinking he must go and find that boy, when in comes Thorndyke, announcing he's found them a new member. It's Tommy, who explains that his guardian beats him and he needs help. Hour-Man cheerfully says that "Thorndyke will let you and the dog stay at his house" (sure, his parents won't mind...) and hurries away to Castle Manor.

There, he sees Perry about to destroy some incriminating papers. He bursts into the room and beats up Perry and the chauffeur, then realises his hour has nearly run out, so grabs the papers and runs away. Next day at work, Rex muses to himself that the papers conclusively prove that Perry was robbing Tommy of huge sums, and that after work he'll go to the executors of Tommy's estate and show them.

Meanwhile, Thorndyke, Tommy and Thunder are walking down the street (must not be a school day...) and walk right into two men who've been sent to find and kidnap Tommy. They do so, despite Thunder's attacks, and drive away. Jimmy Martin comes along, and between them they find a crook's wallet, with his name and address. They call the Minute Men on the radio! One of the boys they call is black, drawn more realistically this time (although he does respond to the call with "Yowsah, boss!"), and he shows up in one later panel too. Progress. Rex receives the signal too, and quickly takes a pill and gets into costume.

The boys arrive at the house first, but are driven away when the villains shoot at them. Hour-Man bursts in, beats them up and throws them outside to be chased away by Thunder while the boys all laugh.

At Castle Manor, Uncle Perry is greeting the executors along with a child actor he's paid to play the part of Tommy and say he's very happy! The board are fooled, and prepare to sign over the rest of Tommy's money to Perry, when in walk Hour-Man and the real Tommy, and expose the plot! The papers are "enough to keep Perry in jail for years", so it's a happy ending for everyone.

Adventure Comics No. 63 (June 1941)
That title panel is a little different, isn't it? That's right - the Minute Men are no longer credited, and for the simple reason that they're not even in this one! We've entered into an era where Hour-Man just won't spend as much time with the boys as he used to. It does make you wonder what's going through his mind - they still exist and are mentioned from time to time, but we don't seem them being an active crime-fighting organisation on-panel any more. Don't worry, though - Jimmy and Thorndyke will return before long!

"Inside the fashionable sportsmen's club on an island in the bay," a man is being initiated into a secret society. After the initiation ceremony (involving pretending to stab him with an icicle), the other members unmask to show themselves as a group of rich men with too much time on their hands. They've decided, just for fun, to steal a secret formula from Bannerman Laboratories late at night. While they're doing it, one man finds a tin of pills lying around, and pockets it too. The watchman interrupts, and they knock him out with a punch to the head before scarpering.

But Hour-Man, "back to change his clothes after a Minute-Man meeting" (I guess he went there straight from work, but it seems a bit risky to keep his superhero outfit at the lab, doesn't it?), hears the ruckus, takes a Miraclo pill and goes in to find the watchman unconscious. Unfortunately, a policeman then arrives and assumes Hour-Man's robbing the place. He doesn't exactly help his cause by beating up the officer and two more cops who arrive as backup, and running outside, where he sees "a luxurious car" driving away. With his usual leap of faith, he assumes (correctly) that this must be the robbers, but the joke's on him this time - when he catches up with the car, the wealthy men inside tell him they had nothing to do with it, and were just passing. Since they don't look like criminals, Hour-Man believes them.

It could all have passed off peacefully, but one of the men announces that Hour-Man is wanted by the police, and they should grab him. Hour-Man beats them up, then runs for it as the police arrive (saying his Miraclo is wearing off, although there doesn't seem to have been an hour's worth of action unless he chased the car for a very long distance).

Next morning, Rex's boss brandishes the newspaper, declaring that the Hour-Man ransacked the place last night, stole a formula worth thousands and put their watchman in the hospital! Rex, meanwhile, learns from the paper that the men he beat up are noted society playboys. The boss orders him to go and visit the watchman, and only then does Rex notice that his Miraclo pills have been stolen too! Still, he goes to see Charles the watchman in hospital, where he learns that playboy Arthur Richley's calling-card was left on the floor of the lab.

Just over the road, the playboys are robbing a jewellery store - Rex comes out of the hospital just in time to see their expensive car speeding away. Changing into costume, he goes to Richley's house, finds the car there, gets hit over the head, recovers quickly and follows them as they head out to the sportsmen's club. In the car, Richley takes one of the Miraclo pills he found in the lab, thinking it might cure his headache (because if you find unlabelled pills lying around, that's very much the clever thing to do). It makes him feel quite wonderful! Unbeknownst to him, he's gained super powers!

Hour-Man tackles them on the boat, and after noticing with surprise how strong Richley is, somehow realises on looking into his eyes that he's taken Miraclo. But since Richley still isn't aware how strong he is, Hour-Man is able to overcome him and string him up in a fishing net. The gang of rich men are exposed, the formula is recovered and even Rex's boss is happy.

All-Star Comics No. 5 (June-July 1941)
The cover to All-Star number 5, rather than featuring the entire Justice Society, just depicts the Spectre, Green Lantern and Flash, fighting some bad guys. But inside, the title page shows the whole gang.

The theme of this bi-month's adventure is a very loose one - Mister X, a mysterious master criminal, has co-ordinated his forces to destroy each member of the Justice Society of America. The eight heroes, after a brief meeting in which they lament how little crime there is just lately (Hourman is late arriving, as he often is in his own comics), all go their separate ways and have their own story, with no particular link between them except 'an enemy tries to defeat the hero'.

Hour-Man's enemy is one 'Monkey' Macey, a gangster who resembles an ape. He has an amazingly original plan - have a crook dress up as Hour-Man [those costumes are clearly really cheap to buy] and steal car tyres, making sure to be spotted by the police. The commissioner is convinced Hour-Man is a petty thief, the newspaper prints a front-page story announcing the fact, and Rex Tyler is understandably irritated. "I thought I had stopped this business of framing me!" he grumbles. "When will the police realise that I work for law and order only?" You can sympathise - we've been through this falsely-accused plotline too many times now.

He takes a Miraclo pill, observed by gangsters, and then interrupts one stealing tyres. There's a fight, but then a crook drops a tar barrel onto him from the roof of a shop, knocking him cold. Yet again. The bad guys flee, hearing an approaching cop. Hour-Man wakes up, escapes the policeman, chases the crook who dropped the barrel and is unknowingly deliberately led to Monkey Macey's hideout. There, he has another fight, and captures them all. It's officially the least inspired and most boring adventure Hour-Man ever has.

Adventure Comics No. 64 (July 1941)
This one's a strange kind of story - a bank is robbed by little grey men who look like garden gnomes, talk in rhyme and wield ray guns. When the police arrive, they dissolve into mist and float away, into the back seat of a nearby car.

It naturally makes headline news in the papers, and at a meeting of "the science club", the club's president, Dr Orr, insists that such a thing is entirely impossible, and the whole story is just a hoax. Rex Tyler, who's a member of the club, suggests forming a committee to help the police, but Dr Orr dismisses this as nonsense. The one person who agrees with Rex is the mad scientist Dr Iker, who barges in at this point and insists he wants to help. The other scientists (except Rex) know Iker of old and throw him out as a troublemaker. He leaves, chuckling to himself that that was just what he expected to happen, and now Dr Orr is in for a surprise.

Rex has a hunch that Dr Orr is in danger. He takes a Miraclo pill, takes off his outer clothes and leaves them in an alley, puts on his costume and follows Orr's car. Sure enough, Orr stops on a lonely road, seeing someone lying in his car's path. It's a little grey man, and the three of them jump up and attack. Hour-Man leaps into action, and the watching Iker says that "I had better bring Normo into being!"

Normo is a giant grey man, who grabs and throttles Hour-Man, puts him in Orr's car and leaves it standing in the middle of the road, just after a blind bend. The little men dissolve into mist and float away again. A police car comes speeding around the bend, crashes into Orr's car and sends the recovering Hour-Man flying. He tries to convince the policemen that he saw the little men, but when they don't believe him he beats them up as usual, and follows tyre tracks. He stops to take another Miraclo pill outside Dr Iker's house, where he's got Orr tied up and threatened with knives by the little men. Iker sees Hour-Man and sends Normo after him again. Hour-Man throws Normo into Iker's machine, making him disappear.

Iker goes "stark mad", and Dr Orr gives us a full and satisfactory explanation for what we've just seen: "His mad genius created a special composition in the fifth dimension! His ultra-sensory ray made them of cloud-like spidery texture! Only thru infra-red glasses could they be seen! He might have controlled the world if you hadn't stopped him!" And that's the end.

Adventure Comics No. 65 (August 1941)
Rex's boss, referred to explicitly by name for a change as Mr Bannerman, is pleased that their customer Dr Darrk is giving them plenty of work. Between that and Castle Doom, does this lab have any customers who AREN'T obviously evil villains?

The doctor is watching from a distance, chuckling to himself  "Heh-heh! Now we'll see how I, Dr Darrk, have perfected my experiment!" as his two criminal associates Butch and Nan (Nan is a woman; female villains were as rare as female heroes in comics in 1941, so this is definitely unusual) enter a jewellery store separately. Butch asks to see the diamonds, and when the salesman has taken them out, Nan fires a beam from her ring which turns the diamonds invisible. Butch quickly passes them to her in the confusion, and she leaves. But then Butch has to beat a hasty retreat when a detective who knows him comes in, and the whole gang beat it back to their hideout.

Rex, meanwhile, is curious about what Dr Darrk is doing with the chemicals he's ordered, and decides to make the next delivery himself, to see if he can find out anything. Nan immediately twigs that Rex is a snooper rather than a delivery man when he comes to the front door rather than the back, and as soon as Rex discovers the tray the stolen diamonds were in, Butch hits him over the head from behind. Rex is imprisoned in the cellar, but takes a Miraclo pill, changes into Hour-Man costume and uses his street clothes to make a dummy lying on the floor for the gang to see if they check up on their prisoner.

Hour-Man follows Nan as she takes a boat out to an abandoned lighthouse. He beats up the guard dogs and then Butch when they try to stop him, but Dr Darrk has another surprise planned - Giganto, a robot! It's a very fragile-looking robot, with spindly little arms and legs, but Hour-Man thinks he's a goner, until he sees a jar of acid lying around, and throws it at the robot. Dr Darrk turns himself and Nan invisible with the rays from his ring, punches Hour-Man and leaves, announcing that they're on their way to steal bonds from the air express.

Hour-Man takes another Miraclo pill, apparently just to wake himself up a bit, and hurries outside, where Dr Darrk and Nan are leaving in a rowing boat, with Butch left behind and furious that they didn't wait for him. Hour-Man and Butch join forces and take another boat to chase after them. Dr Darrk shoots down a plane using an "explosive ray", and when the pilots manage to make a safe landing, the villains stick them up and take the bonds.

But then Hour-Man arrives, Dr Darrk turns invisible again, but our hero throws the acid (!) towards the sound of his voice, and the doctor screams in agony and turns visible. "You won't die!" Hour-Man assures him. "Grab the girl, boys!" (he's talking to the pilots, apparently). Then he destroys Dr Darrk's evil ring, and hurries to get the boss's delivery truck back before he's fired!

All-Star Comics No. 6 (August-September 1941)
Hour-Man watches from the shadows on the background of the cover to the latest Justice Society of America adventure. Inside the comic, we open with the JSA members honouring the Flash with a big celebration - now he's got his own quarterly comic, he's too busy to remain a full member, and so is made "like Superman and Batman, an honorary member of the Justice Society for life". Hourman and the Spectre hoist him up on their shoulders while everybody cheers,  and they've laid out a lavish farewell dinner for him.

Just remember this in a couple of months. This is how the JSA respond when the Flash leaves them.

Anyway, Johnny Thunder gatecrashes the meeting again, wanting to take Flash's vacant spot as a member. Sandman (not normally a great practical joker) whispers a suggestion for a prank, and Johnny is told that if he can bring in "Killer McPanzee", he can join the team. Killer is actually a harmless nut who believes he's a feared gangster, and the heroes all laugh heartily as Johnny goes out to catch him. But in typical Johnny Thunder style, he gets involved in all kinds of scrapes with real criminals, and one by one the Justice Society members either go to his aid or go looking for him - that's the setup for this issue's stories.

Hourman is spared from sharing an adventure with Johnny's blundering comedy - when it comes to his turn to do something, he just goes out to see if he can find any trace of where Johnny's got to, and stumbles into an unrelated adventure of his own. A movie theatre is closing down for the night, when the gorilla and two natives from the promotional display for the movie "Thrills of Africa" come alive and rob the takings! (Since it turns out that they're a man in a suit and two normal men, we can only assume they've been standing motionless in the foyer all day, waiting for their moment to strike)

Hour-Man jumps in and tries to stop them, but they get away. The police arrive and naturally assume he's the robber, so he beats them up and flees. He notices that the tuft of hair he pulled from the gorilla has been treated with his own chemicals, and recognises that it must have come from the natural history museum. Taking a Miraclo pill (did he not do that before the fight? I guess that would explain why the crooks could just run away from him), he breaks into the museum and finds the gorilla is still there - but it's definitely the one from the cinema, missing hair tuft and all. Suddenly it comes alive and throttles him, and the two "savages", now dressed in normal clothes, rush out to join the fight. Hour-Man is bound and gagged and left with a poisonous spider by the gorilla, which takes off its mask to reveal the man underneath.

The two black men, incidentally, are drawn relatively realistically and even talk like normal people, which is unusual in American comics of the time. Hour-Man wakes up before the spider (variously described as a tarantula and a black widow, and not really looking much like either) can bite him; he escapes his bonds and kills it with a spear. Meanwhile, the movie theatre owner and museum executive come in, looking for the same thing as Hour-Man, and recognise the gorilla as a watchman who was fired for drunkenness, seeking revenge on the cinema in a rather convoluted way. Hour-Man comes to their rescue and captures the bad guys, then goes back to see if Johnny Thunder's turned up yet.

The issue ends with Johnny becoming a member of the JSA. Then there's another request for help from the readers - noting that the JSA's constitution only allows them to have eight active members, they ask their loyal fans to recommend another hero who should get their own comic and thus resign their spot on the team, and recommend a hero to take their place. Answers on a postcard, please. In the real world, of course, this poll was obviously bad news for the Hour-Man. See next issue of All-Star for what happens...

Adventure Comics No. 66 (September 1941)
Another superhero (of sorts) joins Adventure Comics this month - the Shining Knight. It's getting crowded in there, although there's still room for plenty of police drama, detectives, comedy and so forth. Meanwhile, our Hourman story reminds us of the Minute Men's existence. That one panel of Jimmy and Thorndyke is all we see of them in this issue (and there's absolutely no explanation for new readers as to who they are, despite it being the first glimpse of them for four months!), but at least we know they're still around.

Another young boy, though, is demanding his money back from a coal merchant, who threatens the boy with violence until Hourman comes along and teaches him a lesson. He examines the coal and finds that it's no wonder it wouldn't burn; it's just slate, painted black. Threatening the coalman with a punching, Hourman gets the boy his money back, and goes with him to see his home in the slums (Hourman invites himself, incidentally, it's not like the boy asks him to come). While the coalman calls his boss, Hourman goes to the slum and is appalled by the poverty he finds there, wondering why someone doesn't do something about it.

The boy's bedridden mother says she wishes someone could help Councilman Drew, a public-spirited official who wants to improve things for them but is being blocked by his enemies. At a meeting that night, Drew is attacked by hired thugs of Big Benny, "the political boss of this town" until Hourman bursts in and saves him. Hourman goes out to investigate the nearby slate mine, taking some more Miraclo on the way, while Big Benny tells the mayor, who's in his pay, to tell the cops to shoot Hourman on sight and guard the quarry.

I must say, I'd never got the idea that Hourman's town (we're not told what it's called this month) was so overrun with evil. Maybe it's Corrupt Politician Week, allowing evil people a chance to see how a city is run? Hourman avoids the police guards, finds evidence of the coal scam at the quarry, beats a few people up and captures the mayor. He learns that Big Benny is meeting Drew in the slums ("Drew visits widow Wilson every other night"), and orders the mayor to drive him there ("Faster, mayor, unless you want to be hit again!" - we need more public-spirited people like this in the political system...)

Big Benny bursts into the widow Wilson's house (that's the boy's mother from earlier), and in a struggle with Drew knocks a lamp over and sets fire to the place. Hourman arrives, grabs the escaping Big Benny and throws him onto the roof of the burning house. He confesses, and he and the mayor are both arrested. And "a few months later", the new low-rent Hour Man Apartments are opened!

Adventure Comics No. 67 (October 1941)
Rex is delivering crop-dusting chemicals to "a southern country" (which seems to mean a place in the USA, rather than a different country) when he sees a biplane about to crash. Quickly taking a Miraclo pill and getting into his costume, he runs, jumps, dangles from the plane's wing and "with a desperate burst of strength" (and complete disregard for the laws of physics) somehow makes it fly upwards again, before climbing into the cockpit. Finding the pilot unconscious, he manages to land it himself.

On the ground, he discovers that the pilot is just a young boy, and the plane is dangerously outdated and not fit to fly. The boy has been sent to dust the crops, despite having nearly no flying experience, and "they said they'd beat me if I didn't do what they said!" Just then, thugs working for Big Red see what's happening and shoot at Hour-Man, who beats them up comprehensively and then goes to investigate Meade Chemicals, as Rex Tyler again.

There he meets Mr Meade and Big Red, and is shown to the room where he'll be staying overnight. On the way he sees numerous "beaten and half starved" boys, who Red explains are charges of the state, sent there from reform school to learn useful occupations. One of the thugs from earlier comes along and whispers to Big Red, and Rex goes to bed, changes into Hour-Man and goes out to look around.

He sees Willie, the boy from earlier, and others being beaten with sticks by "cruel guards", and sorts the matter out in his usual way (the boys help with the beating-up too). Then he takes Willie and escapes through the window. Willie explains that he was trying to escape to get to the Governor, who's giving a speech just five miles away, to explain that the reform school boys are being treated so badly (five of them have been killed already, apparently without anyone paying attention outside the electrified fence surrounding Meade's site).

Hourman runs into town, grabs the Governor and carries him back to the site, where he shows him the dangerous planes and appalling conditions. Meade and Red try to run away, but the police who pursued Hourman arrive in time to arrest them. Our hero slips away and emerges from his room as Rex, while the Governor announces that things will be different from now on.

All-Star Comics No. 7 (October-November 1941)
Hourman's monochrome appearance here is the last time he ever appears on the cover of a comic (until he comes back, more than twenty years later, anyway). The reason for that, and for the Green Lantern getting the starring role, will be explained at the end of the comic. But first, our heroes decide to do some real good for once!

Green Lantern arrives late for the Justice Society's meeting, explaining that "I've just returned from a little jaunt over war-torn Europe and Asia! What I've seen has made me feel pretty badly..." He decides that the JSA need to turn their talents to raising money for war orphans in places like England and China [another decade and China will be the arch-enemy in American comics, but back at this time in history they were our friends]. Hawkman suggests that the JSA set themselves a goal of raising a million dollars, and Hourman's one line in the framing sequence is "I second the motion, and move that the vote be unanimous from all members!" I'm not sure he quite understands how voting works, but anyway, they do all unanimously vote to unanimously vote to raise the money.

Green Lantern displays an astonishing lack of basic mental arithmetic ability, trying to work out how much money that would amount to apiece ("Let's see, if we could each raise $100,000 it still only makes $800,000!"), but Johnny Thunder spares him the trouble of counting on his fingers and toes by announcing that he personally will raise three hundred thousand to make it an even million. And so the members all go their separate ways, each trying to raise $100,000. Some of the ways they do this are downright ridiculous, but Hourman's story is one of the more sensible...

Before he can get to work raising money, Rex is sent to Mexico to deliver a chemical. Somehow Rex doesn't look remotely like he normally does - he even has yellow hair! But as it happens, "Killer Blane" is on the same plane, violating his parole and heading to recover the money he hid there previously. When Rex accidentally knocks a cup of tea over the head of one of Blane's goons, his suspicions are aroused when the thug says "Why dontcha look where you're going, lug?" Since only gangsters call people a lug, Rex wonders if something's going on, but he shrugs it off and enjoys the journey.

When the plane arrives at Maradini, there's only one taxi waiting, so Rex rides with the friendly and well-spoken Killer Blane and gets dropped off at the Wonders expedition (run by Arthur Wonders, looking for Aztec treasure). Blane is shocked when he sees exactly where the expedition is digging, but keeps quiet about it. That night, Rex changes into Hour-Man costume and goes to investigate Blane and the gang. And meanwhile, the taxi driver turns out to work for "the General", a rival crook who's also after Blane's hidden loot, and fills him in about Blane's presence.

While Blane's gang plan to scare off the expedition, Hour-Man eavesdrops outside the window, but he is spotted by the General's minions. Hour-Man fights them off, but then Blane comes up from behind, knocks him out, ties him to a tree and sets off to stop the expedition. The General comes along, finds his recovering henchmen and the captive Hourman, tells Pedro to kill Hourman and goes off to the expedition himself.

Hourman escapes, beats up Pedro and chases after them. Blane and his gang dig for their buried loot under Arthur Wonders's bed, but the General arrives and there's a fight. Hourman arrives and takes care of them both, disposing of a grenade the General throws by hurling it into a nearby tree. The two head bad guys are captured, and it turns out the grenade has uncovered the Aztec treasure. The delighted Wonders offers Hourman a half share in the value; our hero says he'll settle for a cheque for $100,000 ("Give it to that young American who came here tonight! I'll get it later!")

On the next page, there's an announcement that the Green Lantern has become the next honorary member of the JSA, and that Dr Mid-Nite will be taking his place on the team.

Then, at the end of the comic, the heroes get back together and share the money they've raised. Everybody except Johnny Thunder has hit their targets, but while he's apologising for not having managed to get a single penny, he accidentally activates his magic thunderbolt and wishes the three honorary members would each come in with $100,000. And of course, they immediately do. They don't share how they raised the money so fast (to be fair, it wouldn't be difficult - Superman and Flash can move fast enough to 'borrow' the money in seconds, and pay it back later; Batman's a millionaire who can just write a cheque), and the story ends with all eleven of the world's greatest heroes gathered together in the satisfaction of a job well done.

And then at the back of the comic, there's this...

The Justice Society of America hereby elects Green Lantern as the fourth honorary member, like Superman, Batman and the Flash - said honorary membership to be for life -- and does hereby elect Dr Mid-Nite as the new active member in his place!

And a leave of absence is hereby granted to The Hourman, whose active duties will be taken up by The Starman!

Making our roll-call until further notice as follows...
Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, The Sandman, Doctor Fate, The Atom, Dr Mid-Nite, The Spectre, The Starman
Honorary members
Superman, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern

Well, that was sudden. Green Lantern leaves the team and is feted like the Flash before him, made an honorary member and is added to the illustrious list of alumni. Hourman just leaves. We will never speak of him again. It's very obvious that he has left under something of a cloud. What happened?

I can't help noticing that his ignominous departure comes immediately after meeting and socialising with Superman and Batman for the first time. Just after they've all raised money for children's charities. What's the first subject that would naturally come up in a conversation with Batman? I would imagine that Hourman talked with some enthusiasm about the work he's done with the Minute Men. And something about the way he spoke gave Batman cause for concern (he's heard plenty of accusations about his relationship with Robin, no doubt). Words were said, a friendly word of caution taken the wrong way, suggestions were privately made about suitability for membership... if it comes to a choice between Batman and Hourman in a superhero team, who gets the final say?

Whatever the reason for it, that's Hourman's last association with the Justice Society of America.

Adventure Comics No. 68 (November 1941)
While I'm destroying Hourman's reputation with vile innuendo that would horrify the moral standards of 1941, it's worth mentioning that this issue of Adventure Comics announces a new member of the Editorial Advisory Board (whose job was to ensure the comics "provide the boys and girls of America with clean, wholesome, comic entertainment") - noted bondage aficionado Dr William Moulton Marston. He was so impressed with comics that he soon created his own superhero, representing all the principles of female domination he believed in, as embodied by the two women in his menage a trois. And unlike Hourman, Wonder Woman stood the test of time...

Anyway, how does Rex Tyler react to his "leave of absence" from the JSA? He takes Regina out on a date! She appears here for the third and final time, going to the opera with Rex. Regina and her 'society friends' have raised funds to revamp the opera for the new season, with changes including replacing the old conductor, Frenessi, with the younger, handsomer maestro Ravel. Frenessi takes his seat in the audience, as Regina worries that he's bitter about being replaced. "He shouldn't be! He made plenty of money!" Rex replies.

But when Ravel touches his baton, there's a massive bang, and all the lights go out. Then an image of a theatre mask is projected onto the curtain, and an eerie voice says that there shall be no opera! The Mask has spoken! When the lights come back on, Rex and others go to investigate - Ravel has been killed by a massive electrical charge conducted through the baton. When the police arrive, Rex takes Regina (who thinks to herself that she'd ask him for help if he wasn't so meek) home in a cab, then goes into an alley to change into costume and take a pill. As he does, he says to himself "If only I could reveal myself to her, show her that I'm the Hour Man!" Well... why can't he? What's stopping him? Superhero rules? On the other hand, she'd probably tell her uncle, who'd give him the sack...

Our hero goes to investigate the opera house. Sneaking in the back door to avoid the police, he sees a suspicious-looking man and beats him up, only for another, cloaked, figure up above to drop a sandbag on his head. The other man, Tony, gets away just before the police arrive and naturally assume Hour-Man murdered Ravel. When one policeman goes away to call for the wagon, the other is momentarily distracted by the arrival of an electrician, and Hour-Man beats him up and runs.

Up in the rafters, he finds "some kind of phonograph", which plays the Mask's announcement from earlier. Avoiding the police, he grabs the electrician and questions him about the recording. It's a remote-controlled playback, invented by assistant electrician Tony Fabbio. Hourman gets his address and heads round there, where Tony is arguing with the man in the cloak. He intends to kill all his enemies, starting with Regina Bannerman. Tony protests against killing, and is stabbed by the cloaked man, who leaves just before Hourman gets there. Tony, before dying, explains that the Mask has gone to kill Regina.

The Mask arrives in Regina's house, and chases her around with a knife, before Hourman arrives and punches him, revealing him to be Frenessi. He kills himself rather than be arrested, and Hourman escapes out of the window. Regina tells Rex all about it at the lab the next day, and he laughs "I hope this Hour Man isn't going to give me competition!"

Adventure Comics No. 69 (December 1941)
The monster in the mirror in that symbolic title picture doesn't actually resemble the monsters in this story, but as we shall see... it's a strange one.

"In his boarding house room, Rex Tyler, his day's work ended, awaits dinner." This confirms that Rex doesn't cook and clean for himself; most superheroes of the time are single men, but they're never seen being domestic, so I guess they all keep the boarding houses of America in business. He's so relaxed, in fact, he's even taken his jacket and tie off! He reads about the arrest of saboteurs in the newspaper.

Then he sees a star of unusual brightness, heading straight towards him! Suddenly, a strange dwarfish figure with bald head and glasses appears on the windowsill and announces himself as "I am Dr Wizen and I know your secret! You, Rex Tyler, are the Hour Man!" He rips off Rex's clothes to reveal his costume underneath, and taunts him that he's useless without Miraclo. Rex tries to take a pill, but finds he can't lift his hand. Dr Wizen calls for gorohs, two huge creatures with bald, human heads, enormous hairy torsos, and much smaller legs clad in trousers and sensible shoes. Rex jumps at one, but passes right through it and crashes into the wall. Dr Wizen orders the gorohs to put Rex's mask on him, and load him into the space chariot.

"With a roar, the strange car hurtles off into space." Dr Wizen taunts Hourman with the Miraclo, as they arrive at his kingdom, a space city on another planet. There, Hourman is taken into a lab and put in front of a ray machine. He breaks free of the gorohs and tries to get to the Miraclo, but is ultimately hit by a ray and paralysed. He falls under Dr Wizen's control, and they fly back to Earth (not in the space chariot, the four of them fly through space, with arms outstretched).

They come back to the Bannerman labs, where it turns out that Mr Bannerman is a spy, working for Dr Wizen. He's set a bomb to kill the "defence heads" inspecting the explosives they're working on. Wizen is pleased, and calls Hourman into the room. He orders him to remove his mask, revealing Rex Tyler, and Mr Bannerman laughs and dances around the room with delight at learning that the meek chemist is the brave Hourman! Rex feels his strength returning, and realises that contact with Earth air has negated the effects of the ray. He grabs the Miraclo from Wizen's pocket and attacks the gorohs, while the defence board in the next room wonder what's making all the noise.

Hourman throws a goroh through the door, where it crashes into the dynamite and causes a massive explosion! Outside the ruins of the lab, Rex laments "Oh, what have I done? Innocent men - dead!". Bannerman jeers that now Rex will die, and Wizen takes his own formula, better than Miraclo, "Enormo K-2"! It turns him into a giant, and he grabs Hourman by the neck and throttles him. "Say goodbye to your campaign to help the oppressed! This is your last fight!"

And then Rex is woken up by his landlord, Meadows (whose head looks just like Wizen's). It was all a dream. "That's what I get for thinking about evildoers instead of DOING something about it!" Rex thinks to himself. "Believe me, the Hour Man is going to find himself a REAL adventure!"

The stress of being kicked out of the Justice Society has really affected poor Rex, hasn't it?

Adventure Comics No. 70 (January 1942)
Rex and Mr Bannerman seem to be getting along better nowadays - as this story begins, they've just been to the movies together. Mr Bannerman is scornful about the idea of a flying carpet, but then they see a real life one come swooping down out of the sky, piloted by a bald dwarf! No, not the bald dwarf from last month's story; a different one. He grabs a woman's diamond necklace, and when Mr Bannerman tells him to give it back, he sends the carpet flying towards him! Rex has to dive to push his boss out of the way. (It's hard to see how being hit by a carpet could be fatal, but all the characters seem to believe it would be). The dwarf flies away on his carpet, while the woman reflects that the theft doesn't really matter since the jewels were insured with the Atlas company, but she might as well call the police anyway.

The boss invites Rex up to his place, but Rex pleads a headache and says goodnight. "A good worker, but he's so timid!" muses Mr Bannerman. Rex slips into an alley, "takes off his outer garments" and emerges in costume. At a circus, meanwhile, Mr Atlas of the insurance company is chatting with the owner - the circus is insured for a million dollars, but unless anything dramatic happens, Atlas won't need to pay them anything. But then along comes the flying carpet. The dwarf releases the lions from their cage! Hour-Man arrives just in time, and ("fortified by Miraclo") beats up the lions. He leaps for the carpet, but it gets away from him, just as the police arrive and naturally try to arrest Hour-Man.

The circus owner is annoyed that Atlas recognised the dwarf on the carpet, but Hour-Man runs in and grabs Atlas, taking him up to the privacy of a nearby roof for an explanation. He says "I fired that dwarf, Globe-O, and his brother! They were using our factories - I control many things including insurance companies - for unlawful purposes!" And now they're out for revenge. Atlas notices a thread from the carpet on Hour-Man's costume, and points out that it's actually an electrical wire of the delicate kind used by an electrical wizard Bert Izzel, who disappeared a month ago.

Hour-Man runs to "the house" (the address he was just given is where Izzel used to live, but wouldn't somebody have gone there to look for him by now?) and when he gets inside, Globe-O and Dodo (these seem to be their real names) open a trapdoor that drops him into a cage in the basement. Izzel is chained to the wall next to him. He kicks Dodo into the cage, so Hour-Man can grab the key and release himself. Dodo leaps onto the carpet and Globe-O turns it on with a switch on the wall, but before he can get on too, Hour-Man grabs him and slams him face-first into the control panel. The machine short-circuits and the carpet falls out of the sky. Izzel explains that it flew by electrical impulse, because this was apparently the most important detail to clear up, and Hour-Man concludes "So that's how the carpet worked! Well, our mad geniuses will have a long vacation in jail from now on!"

Adventure Comics No. 71 (February 1942)
Our hero completes his second year of existence with the start of a new era! A whole lot of notable 'firsts' in this one!

Dr Destiny, a radio astrologer, is fired because his broadcast is a load of nonsense. He tells Mr Stone that he and the rest of the board of directors will pay for this! The directors laugh off the threat at their meeting, but afterwards, one of them (a Sagittarius) is shot with an arrow by a masked figure, and another (a Scorpio) is killed by a deadly scorpion that was delivered to his house with a letter from Dr Destiny announcing that he's suffered a zodiacally-appropriate fate.

But elsewhere, it's Hour-Man's birthday! And the Minute-Men are singing happy birthday to him. Even though we haven't seen them for so long, there isn't so much as a narrative caption explaining who these boys are - the name "Minute-Men" isn't used anywhere. Thorndyke (who also doesn't get a namecheck) presents the hero with his birthday present, a fountain pen. Great present to give a superhero. Then they hear on the radio that Dr Destiny has struck again in his quest to kill the directors according to astrology. Thorndyke asks what astrology is, and Hourman pulls down a chart which was already hanging on the wall and explains.

Later, Hourman exposes himself to powerful Miraclo Rays with his new ray device! No more pills, this is how he gets his powers from here on out. It's, well, it's a box with two light bulbs on top. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but perhaps in 1941 it seemed somehow futuristic. But it's a good thing because it "enables me to absorb Miraclo externally instead of internally!"

In another first, there's a little clock face drawn in the bottom corner of every panel, showing how much time is left (funnily enough, he always takes Miraclo on the stroke of the hour). He goes round to the house of Darius Carter, president of the syndicate, but finds that he has received an anonymous phone call inviting him to the zoo. (Personally, if I knew there was a crazed murderer out to get me, I wouldn't go to the zoo under these circumstances, but Carter doesn't seem to have seen any reason not to). Hourman races there just in time to find Dr Destiny shoving Carter (a Leo) into the lion cage. Hourman gets into the cage by bending the bars, and kicks the lions in the face (which the narrator describes as lulling them to sleep), rescuing Carter while Dr Destiny gets away.

Hourman races to go and see the other surviving directors, carrying Carter under his arm. One of them pours himself a glass of water, which Hourman knocks out of his hand, noticing that it's been poisoned (the director is an Aquarius). Then Mr Stone says he's had a letter from Dr Destiny demanding $10,000. "Good! We'll set a trap!" says Hourman.

"Later", says the narrative caption, although only six minutes have passed according to the clock, Hourman is briefing Jimmy Martin on the situation. Jimmy is wearing "this new outfit you got me!" - it's an exact duplicate of Hourman's. And they're going into action together! Jimmy has clearly been promoted to official kid sidekick.

They hurry to the woods and put the money on a tree stump as requested, meaning to hang around and grab the doctor when he comes to collect it. They wait for several minutes, but then a hatch opens in the tree trunk, and a hand comes out from inside to grab the money! They dive down into the chamber hidden below (Jimmy goes first, Hourman says "After you!") to confront Dr Destiny, whose face is still hidden. Hourman punches him, but he gets away, down into the deep underground cavern, and Hourman falls into a pit of quicksand while chasing him.

The hour of Miraclo runs out just at this point, and Dr Destiny hits Jimmy over the head with a club. When he wakes up, he's locked into stocks, watching as Hourman sinks in the quicksand. Dr Destiny departs. But Hourman splashes the oily quicksand onto Jimmy's wrists, allowing him to slip his arm free and escape from the stocks. Then Jimmy rips up his brand new superhero cape (Hourman is shocked) to make a rope to pull him free. They head back to Rex's home (Jimmy definitely knows where that is now, although we don't see Hourman out of costume at all in this story), with the hero explaining that he can't take another dose of Miraclo rays because "I've only a small amount of the Miraclo substance left! I'll have to win out by my wits and fists!"

They change into clean costumes (Rex clearly keeps multiple man and child-size Hourman costumes around the place) and Hourman calls all the directors to get together again. When they do, Dr Destiny bursts into the room, threatening to kill them all with a bomb! In a panic, Mr Stone gasps "So you escaped! Kill them, Dr Destiny, and I'll split the profits with you!", but Dr Destiny reveals himself to actually be Hourman, tricking Stone into exposing himself. He was trying to take complete control of the company, and used the real Dr Destiny, who he's holding prisoner, as his cover.

"Much later", Hourman gives Jimmy an extra big piece of his birthday cake, and Thorndyke thinks "I wonder why Jimmy got the biggest slice!!"

Adventure Comics No. 72 (March 1942)
This is the last comic to call the hero "Tick-Tock" Tyler in the title panel. The name hasn't been used in dialogue for ages. Three o'clock in the morning, and a navy officer leaves the "Woo-Woo Club" and gets into a taxi, watched by Hourman "as part of his nightly patrol in an unceasing war against crime." Seriously? When does he sleep? He has a regular day job after all, and although he never shows any sign of having any adult friends, he devotes plenty of time outside work hours to hanging out with the boys. He notices that the cab is going the wrong way to get to the hotel he named. The taxi signals to a black sedan, which swerves to block the road.

Hourman runs into action as the bad guys in the car hold up the passengers with guns. The sailor fights them off, and Hourman joins in until the leader of the thugs gets out of the car, sneaks up behind him and clubs him over the head. Once more, Hourman is knocked unconscious, and the villains drive away with the navy man as their prisoner. His fiancĂ©e, Janet Kirby, laments that the officer, Captain Frank Preston, has to join his submarine tomorrow, and hopes the thugs aren't spies. Another man in the taxi, Wayne Carson, has called the police, so Hourman has to quickly scarper, picking up a rope that the thugs have dropped. He notices that it smells of tar, and so probably comes from a ship chandler.

Meanwhile, Captain Preston has been taken to the ringleader, a very strange-looking bald man with a glowing light surrounding him - Dr Glisten. He hypnotises the captain and exults that his crew is now complete. "Tomorrow at dusk we start our adventure!"

Rex calls in sick for work, claiming to have a terrible cold. His boss says okay, but thinks "You mollycoddle!" Rex spends the day going around all the shops on the dockside, until he finally comes to the one owned by Dr Glisten, "wearing a smock and hat to cover up the glow of light that comes from him" [I'm not sure how that works, since he isn't really wearing any more clothes than he was in the previous scene]. Rex asks if he sells rope like the piece he found, claiming to be thinking of buying an old boat, when he notices Carson leaving the shop, telling Glisten that "everything will be ready." Rex quickly follows him out, changes into costume and tracks him.

He sees Carson going into an old warehouse, and sneaks in through the skylight to find a hidden submarine with a crew on board. But then the floor of the gallery he's standing on collapses under him, and he has to beat up the crew and capture Carson, who tells him Captain Preston is at Glisten's shop. They go back there and find Glisten hypnotising more sailors. Hour-Man leaps into action, but is frozen in mid-air at a wave of Glisten's hand! Carson takes a moment to tell him their plan, to plunder ships using the submarine and blame it on "enemy subs".

But Hour-Man manages to move his hand and hold up the hourglass he wears around his neck, which in some way related to its "brightness" breaks Dr Glisten's spell. It's rather unclear. He throws Glisten into a barrel of brine, successfully "getting the glow off him", which breaks his hold on the sailors. Captain Preston punches Carson and resolves everything, telling Hourman "We'll put that mad doctor in an asylum! You sure saved our skins!"

Adventure Comics No. 73 (April 1942)
Adventure Comics has another costumed hero as of this issue - Manhunter (replacing the non-costumed "Paul Kirk, Manhunter" strip). He gets the front cover, but I'd imagine most people thought he was Starman, same as usual, since they both wear red outfits. Anyway, towards the back there's still room for an Hourman story, and Minute Man Martin gets his name back into the strip's title! He models his new costume - identical to Hourman's as before, but instead of the hood he just wears a domino mask, like most kid sidekicks did (Robin was a real trendsetter).

"Nine p.m. and the radio stations of the city are blanked out by some mysterious interference!" This was 1942, remember, and radio is the most important thing in the world. But a sinister voice speaks from a hidden broadcasting station - it's Professor Q, who (despite being on the radio) is dressed in a big black cloak and dark glasses, with a big red letter Q on a necklace. He introduces himself and announces that tonight's question is "While you take care of the pennies, what happens to the dollars?" The next day, a bank is robbed by Professor Q's henchmen.

The next evening, the same thing happens, Professor Q asking "Why shouldn't government officials go to the theatre?" before the mayor is assassinated at a theatre. David Manders, president of the local radio station, complains that the police aren't doing their best. The police protest that they're doing everything they can, and introduce "Rex Tyler, a scientist. He's trying to locate Professor Q!"

This seems rather out of the range of Rex's usual job description, and there isn't even the slightest hint as to what kind of 'science' he's planning to use on this investigation. But Manders is unimpressed, and tells them that if they don't sort out Professor Q, he'll run for mayor himself and fire the lot of them.

Back at Rex's home, he exposes himself to Miraclo rays (at 9pm), while Jimmy (also dressed in superhero costume) listens to the latest question. "So, Manders would like to be mayor, eh? Well, before that he will have to answer my question: What happened to the tower of Babel?"

Hourman and Jimmy race to the Bernard Abel building that's under construction nearby, and interrupt a gang of thugs planting a bomb. The heroes beat them up (Jimmy is just as actively involved in the fights as Hourman is, though he doesn't seem to have been given any Miraclo) and then are taunted by Professor Q from the shadows, only for him to turn out to be a dummy with a two-way radio set in it.

Realising that Professor Q must be watching them from the radio building across the street, Hourman and Jimmy swing across on the hook of a crane, and crash through a window, interrupting an orchestra performance. Professor Q orders more thugs to attack them, and our heroes beat them away with musical instruments. They run to the escalator, which Hourman "with a mighty heave, reverses" (that's what the narrator says, anyway - it's hard to tell from the artwork what's happening), sending the pursuing thugs falling down. Hourman leads the way to Manders' office, but the door locks behind them.

Professor Q floods the room with "radio ultra-shortwave", making everything glow with heat. He's ahead of his time; probably the first ever supervillain to trap the hero in a microwave oven! But Jimmy notices a shadow moving behind a picture on the wall; Hourman breaks the glass and they jump through into the Professor's secret lair.

Hourman pulls off Professor Q's fake beard to reveal Manders; the earlier mention that Manders wanted to be mayor gave him away, apparently. The whole thing is a plot to get himself elected mayor, and he pulls a gun on the heroes to silence them. Hourman knocks the gun away, but Professor Q hits him over the head with a microphone, punches Jimmy in the face and escapes, climbing up the outside wall of the building.

The heroic duo pursue him, but Hourman is blinded by the light of the revolving aeroplane beacon on top of the building, and is trapped by the cape in the giant gears. Jimmy tries to help, but Manders hits him over the head with the butt of his gun. The Miraclo runs out at this point, and all looks lost, but the weakened Jimmy strikes a match and sets fire to Hourman's cape (he really loves destroying capes to save the hero, doesn't he?), freeing him. Professor Q charges at the heroes, but is blinded by the light himself, and plummets off the building to his doom.

"Well, that's the end of another racket..." says Jimmy. Hourman agrees "Yes! I've answered Professor Q's last question!"

The unbeatable hero team of Hourman and Minute Man Martin look all set to go on to new and greater adventures, don't they? But next month...

Adventure Comics No. 74 (May 1942)
This is a very significant issue. But it starts simply enough - two scary-looking tough-guy ex-cons, Gimpty Gowan and Bugs Manders [this is the second consecutive story with a bad guy called Manders - clearly there was somebody of that name in the real world, whom the writer really disliked] go into a library, trying their best to talk like cultured, educated types, and express delight at looking over the rare first editions held there. They leave without causing any trouble, much to the relief of the librarian, but an hour after they're gone, there are a series of massive explosions, destroying a million dollars' worth of books.

Back at their hideout, the Highbrow Hoods congratulate themselves on their clever scheme - stealing the books "when nobody's lookin'" and replacing them with fakes designed to explode in an hour's time, nobody even knows anything was stolen. It's a clever enough plan, but I struggle to see how they managed to do it - the art shows them both entering and leaving the library, and they're not even carrying a bag. How did they manage to steal an entire bookcase full of large books without anyone noticing?

The next day, they go to the engineers' exhibit, where precious stones are on display. Again, they walk around trying to talk all cultured and intelligent, and attract the attention of Rex Tyler, who's there manning the Bannerman company's exhibit. An hour after the Cultured Crooks leave, there's another big explosion in the case where the jewels were stored. Rex makes the intelligent observation that "Some explosive must have been planted in this case! Jewels never explode by themselves!" and notices that the jewels have entirely disappeared. He resolves to investigate Gowan and Manders as Hourman, and hurries back to "his laboratory" (presumably meaning a room in his house, rather than his workplace) to change into costume. And there he finds...

Thorndyke. He's not wearing his flat cap, revealing a new hairstyle consisting of three spikes of red hair, and he clearly knows Rex's secret identity (this is the first the readers have heard of this development), but Rex seems to know about these two changes already. He clearly didn't know about Thorndyke's next announcement, though - Jimmy Martin has "left town with his mother".

Well... THAT was sudden! He left town? Just like that? Without even saying goodbye?!

And he never comes back. We've seen the last of Minute Man Martin. Clearly his mother has taken drastic steps to stop Jimmy hanging out with Hourman. He's obviously been told he can never even communicate with his friend again. What's surprising is that Jimmy has gone along with it - we've seen before (remember Rodney Morvan?) that he doesn't have a problem with children disobeying parents who don't want them to be Minute Men. And wherever Mrs Martin has taken him, he's still a radio ham and knows the frequency to contact Hourman on. If he wanted to get in touch, even to say farewell, he could and would.

Now, if we apply the logic of our own universe to the situation, it's perfectly reasonable. Jimmy would have come home from last month's adventure with some bad bruises as a minimum, probably also concussion and possible brain damage. Twice now he, a young boy with no super-powers or training, has been taken into action in a superhero costume, fighting thugs and villains, scaling the walls of tall buildings, and so forth. Any sane mother would have done what Mrs Martin did. But this is the superhero universe, and sane mothers are few and far between.

Taking Jimmy's departure along with the shady way he left the Justice Society, it looks very much like Hourman is being shunned by the community. It would have taken more than "you might be killed" to make Jimmy agree to drop Hourman like this. Somebody's convinced him there are other reasons he wouldn't want to be a Minute Man. Maybe Batman even came round and had a gentle word about the wrong kind of superhero/sidekick interaction...

But anyway, back to the story. None of these considerations seem to apply to Thorndyke. Rex changes into his Hourman costume and exposes himself to Miraclo rays. Thorndyke also gets into "costume" - unlike Jimmy, he never gets a superhero outfit, but he ties a red cape with yellow trim (the reverse of Hourman's) around his turtleneck, and wears an hourglass necklace like the hero. The two of them hurry to the museum, where Rex heard the hoods say they were heading next.

They interrupt the villains (accompanied by other colleagues this time) examining the statues, and a big fight breaks out. Thorndyke enthusiastically joins in with the fisticuffs. At one point, the two of them use a giant longbow to launch one thug into the others. But the bad guys manage to drop a tapestry on Hourman's head, and club Thorndyke over the head with a gun, and they make their escape, taking Thorndyke as a hostage.

When Hourman recovers (it seems to take him a long time), the museum security guard tells them that the bad guys said they were going to "Ray's", and that they don't seem to have taken anything. But Hourman notices that one of the statues is an unusual colour, and from this deduces the entire plot. The museum will be blown up in an hour, and there isn't time to find all the fake statues! Knowing that "Ray" can only mean "Johnny Ray, the fence" [another interesting name - Johnnie Ray, soon to be a famous singer, was only 15 and almost entirely unknown when this comic came out], Hourman goes straight to his hangout (apparently he already knows where it is) and tries the front door. But it swings up and scoops him into the lair, where he's clubbed over the head by four men and falls unconscious as they jeer at him. "Come to join your boy friend, huh?" Manders taunts.

"When the black haze of oblivion lifts from Hourman's pain-numbed brain" he finds himself tied up with Thorndyke on a plank (weighted down by sandbags) above a tank full of nitroglycerine. "Don't move a muscle, Jimmy!" he says.

That's rather touching, isn't it? He falls unconscious hearing taunts about his "boyfriend", and when he wakes up, he accidentally calls Thorndyke "Jimmy". His stoic reaction to the news of Jimmy leaving obviously masks some deep feelings.

The hoods are all dressed up in top hats and dinner jackets, and on their way to the circus. Hourman asks them for a last cigarette before they go, and the bad guys cheerfully oblige. After they've left, Thorndyke asks what on earth Hourman, who doesn't smoke, is doing. He puffs the cigarette to make it red hot, and drops it into the nitroglycerine. He explains that it only explodes from shock - touching a flame to it just sets it on fire!

Sure enough, "leaping tongues of flame sear thru the hemp bonds," and burn the sacking of the sandbags, dropping the sand onto the fire, smothering it. Hourman and Thorndyke escape in a dramatic (if scientifically implausible) way! They hurry to make a plan.

When the thugs arrive at the circus, they're shown to a private box, which turns out to be a cage on a horse-cart, containing Hourman! He beats them up as they speed to the museum, and ushers them inside the building. With his Miraclo having worn off, he has to bluff them from this point on; telling them that the museum will explode with them all in it unless the crooks admit their scheme and show him the fake statues. They do, and dunk the statues in a pool of water, following which they're arrested by the police. Hourman and Thorndyke escape into the night.

Adventure Comics No. 75 (June 1942)
Thorndyke gets his name into the title panel for the first time - from now until the end, it will be Hour-Man and Thorndyke. The info box also tells us that our heroes live in "Gotham City" (which of course is Batman's home) this month. And it refers to Hourman as "sixty-second crusader against crime" instead of the more accurate sixty-minute. Somebody was very confused when they wrote this.

Although this is the "June" issue of Adventure Comics, and it was published at the start of April, the story takes place in the winter; there's lots of snow on the ground and a blizzard raging. Thorndyke is ordered by his mother to stay indoors, since he's got a bad cold. This story is the only time we see Thorndyke's parents (his father is called Ed, we don't learn his mother's name, Ed just calls her "mother") and the only time we're told the family's surname, Tompkins. Thorndyke agrees to stay in and fix his sled, but finds that he needs a nail, and there isn't one in the house. He needs to borrow one from next door, but his mother has hidden his shoes to make him stay indoors.

Thorndyke takes his dad's shoes instead, and goes out to get his nail. His father, a milkman (who also just has one tuft of red hair on his head) searches all over for his shoes and eventually sighs that "I ought to have more than one pair. Now I've got to wear my slippers in this snow!" He trudges to work (the Gotham Milk Co) and arrives late - his boss says it's all right, but he had to send someone else out with his horse and milk cart. Ed panics - he's been keeping it a secret, but Daisy the horse is blind! Nobody else could drive her safely! He runs out into the snow storm to find her, despite the boss telling him not to be a fool.

Hours later, Ed finally finds the cart, and sees the substitute milkman beating Daisy. He angrily threatens to teach him a lesson, but the substitute pulls a gun and shoots him. Daisy, startled by the shot, rears up, kicks the man in the head and runs away into the stormy night.

Ed staggers home, badly wounded, and while Mrs Tompkins calls a doctor, Thorndyke runs out into the night to Rex Tyler's house, where he tearfully explains what's happened. Rex (who despite last issue's assertion that he doesn't smoke, is puffing on a pipe - fast-acting nicotine addiction, evidently) promises to help, patting Thorndyke companionably on the shoulder and telling him to "get into costume". He exposes himself to Miraclo (as usual, it's exactly 11pm) and the two of them rush out into the night, heading for the scene of the crime.

The milkman (Dopey Dan), meanwhile, reports to his boss "Brick Barton, massive mobster chieftain" that he made the collections as planned, but the horse got away from him. Barton is furious, beats up the man, and calls out all his gang to locate the milk cart. "There's a million dollars hidden in those milk bottles!"

The criminals and heroes arrive at the scene at the same time, and launch into a series of events almost identical to last month's story - they fight, Hourman is incapacitated by a fall of snow on his head from an awning, Thorndyke is hit over the head and captured, Hourman follows them to their lair (the villains left a trail of Thorndyke's torn-up cape for him to follow) where he's hit over the head by four men as soon as he enters, and wakes up to find himself tied up with Thorndyke and facing a creative death trap that will kill him while the bad guys leave to carry on with their plan.

This time, it's "a personal toaster - with you as the toast!" They're wrapped in wires, and electricity passes down them to burn the heroes to death! Hourman is able to use his superhuman strength to roll over to Thorndyke and touch the wires, short-circuiting the death trap.

They hurry back to the dairy, where they find the villains. There's another big fight scene, and when the Miraclo hour runs out (the narrator says it's one o'clock, though the clock that's been showing the time in the bottom corner of the panels says twelve) it looks bad, but then in comes Daisy, having found her way home, and distracts them long enough for Hourman, with normal strength, to punch Barton out. Thorndyke disposes of the henchmen by dropping milk cans on them, and Hourman unmasks Barton to reveal that he's Thorndyke's dad's boss. He sent his men out to work as butlers in wealthy houses, where they stole jewels and left them out in milk bottles, to be brought back to the dairy.

Hourman says that if there's a reward, Daisy's earned it, to which Thorndyke quips "That means Daisy can retire on her own private income!" There's no mention of how his dad's getting on; he never appears again, but we can probably assume his bullet wound didn't turn out to be fatal.

Adventure Comics No. 76 (July 1942)
A nice film-themed title panel to open our story this month. Thorndyke doesn't get listed in the credits either; he only gets a cameo in this one.

We open with Rex Tyler entertaining boys at the orphanage with a chemical demonstration. They're all very impressed, with the exception of the new boy, Dan McGrew. He dismisses Rex's experiment as kids' stuff, and shoves him out of the way to demonstrate how to make a very big and impressive explosion. "Holy H. Cow!!" exclaims Rex, "What kind of a kid is this?" But then, three gangsters barge in and "adopt" McGrew, beating up Rex as he tries to interfere. As they get away, Rex throws a vial of chemicals at their car - luckily, it turns out to be "radiant potassium" and will leave a trail for him to follow. He knows that he has to get the kidnapped boy back, because "I promised the orphanage officials I'd take care of the kids!"

Inside the car, Dan struggles to get away, and ends up leading the crooks into hitting each other. Then, realising that he's being kidnapped, he settles back with a grin and tells them to get on with it.

Back at home, Rex gets into costume and zaps himself with the Miraclo rays. He follows the trail of the car to an empty baseball park, and bursts in on the kidnappers. He beats them up, and as they run away he hits baseballs at their heads, knocking them out. But then Dan McGrew hits him over the head with a baseball bat, saying he doesn't want to be rescued yet!

He orders the kidnappers to tie Hour-Man up and get on with business - when they write a ransom note and suggest asking for fifty thousand dollars, Dan is outraged and tells them he's worth a million! He writes the note himself, and tells the men to take it to the Daily Herald. None of the gang want to stay in the hideout with Dan, so they decide to take him with them. He tells them to leave Hourman behind, tied up and harmless, and the gangsters interpret this to mean to leave him at the bottom of an empty swimming pool and start to fill it up with water.

After they leave, Hourman manages to grab a wooden plank with his mouth, diverting the flow of water out of the pool and giving himself time to escape his bonds and get free. He speeds after the baddies' car, catching up with it by the newspaper building and beats them up, watched by a newspaper photographer. Then he puts Dan over his knee and gives him a spanking for being such a nuisance!

That night, Rex is taking Thorndyke to the movies (did he need to explain this to Mr and Mrs Tompkins, somehow?) when they see the evening paper - the headline reads "Movie star is rescued from kidnappers by Hourman! Posing as "orphan Dan McGrew" in the city home, young movie star Ronnie Raoul was kidnapped by thugs today... he was rescued and soundly spanked by Hourman for reasons unknown!!!" Three exclamation marks, and a big photo of Hourman spanking the boy. This won't do wonders for his reputation. It seems the actor was in the orphanage as a publicity stunt, and was delighted to be kidnapped, knowing it would get his name in the papers.

"I'm glad you spanked him!" opines Thorndyke. "Nobody ought to be with Hourman except me... Thorndyke!"

(There's an alternate theory about Jimmy's disappearance, that Thorndyke killed him and buried him under the patio. It seems plausible at moments like this...)

Adventure Comics No. 77 (August 1942)
"For the Minute Men, crime no longer stalks the city... for spring is in the air!" This is the last mention of the Minute Men as a larger group, and now it seems to consist solely of Thorndyke and his friends Red and Four-Eyes (and one other boy who stands in the distant background of two panels), getting up to comedy-street-urchin mischief. How the mighty have fallen. The boys are into swing music (like all up-to-date hep-cats of 1942) and go to their clubhouse (Rug-Cutter Row) to practice on the instruments they've bought from the hock shops.

As they arrive, they find men taking a big packing-crate out of the club, but they go inside to find that their old instruments have been replaced with new ones! A note left on Thorndyke's drum kit says the brand new instruments are a gift from an anonymous friend. The boys make beautiful music together, but Red says he preferred his shoddy old saxophone to the new one, and wants it back. The boys run back out and accost the delivery men, who rudely tell them to beat it. The Minute Men fight back, and the men quickly drive away, saying "Hambone's gonna be sore if we let a pack of kids hold us up!" Thorndyke runs off to get Hourman to sort things out.

Rex, confessing himself to be "a music-lover myself... even of YOUR music!" changes into costume and exposes himself to Miraclo rays. Thorndyke also gets into costume - he's now wearing a yellow cape identical to Hourman's, which might be seen as good narrative continuity; his red one was torn up the last time he wore it. Hourman knows that Hambone must be "Hambone Hoskins, the racketeer who runs the Met Arena as a cover-up for his crooked work!" and they head there straight away. (Why does he know about all these criminals without having done anything about them yet?)

They arrive at the arena, and barge past Hoskins's henchmen who insist the place is a legitimate operation. Thugs run in to the gym to get them, and Hourman picks up a throwing hammer, spins it around his head and hits them with it. It seems to me that this would kill them, but it just seems to knock them down; as does the discus Thorndyke throws at the head of another. Grabbing a vaulting pole, Hourman leaps up to a balcony (Thorndyke clinging on to his cape) and bumps into Hambone Hoskins himself, who pulls a gun and orders them into his office.

Hourman demands to know why the exchange of instruments, but Hambone shrugs it off and says that if the boys want their own instruments back they're welcome to take them. Thorndyke, however, notices that the clarinet he's given isn't the same one, and one of the thugs blurts out "They're onto the Bodie job!" - meaning that now they know too much and Hambone has to have them killed. He takes them far away from his arena so as not to be implicated in the deaths, and straps them to the roof of a trolley car, setting it running off through the city, out of control! But Hourman is able to roll over and off the end of the car, grabbing the cable with his teeth and pulling the power arm away from the overhead wire! The trolley comes to a halt.

Hourman recalls that a millionaire called Bodie died recently, and Thorndyke that he left a safe that nobody is able to open to the Museum of Modern Mechanics. The heroes head there, fast. Hoskins and his men are there, and tell each other what they already know; they found out from Bodie's butler that the lock can be opened with the clarinet, they had to search "every hock shop in the city" before they found it (why did a millionaire's clarinet end up in a pawn shop?) and now they just need to play a certain combination of notes.

As they do, Hourman and Thorndyke jump out at them and beat them all up, ready to call the police to collect them. And Thorndyke and the gang go back to Rug-Cutter Row and play their music, making a neighbour wonder why Hourman doesn't do something about these nuisances.

Adventure Comics No. 78 (September 1942)
Rather a dull one, this, not exactly worthy of Shakespeare, but that's our theme this month. "An audacious newspaper announcement" invites the police to attend the murder of the lawyer John Ward in his study at 10pm. It's signed by "Sir John Falstaff". Waiting in the study, Ward chats with the police about Walter Cornell, an actor who talked about Falstaff, and his genius make-up artist Quanto. The butler announces that Falstaff has arrived, and shows him in.

Falstaff, dressed in appropriate costume, reiterates that Ward will indeed be murdered in five minutes. The butler brings Ward his pills and a glass of water; the sergeant tastes it first to make sure it's not poisoned (doesn't value his own life very much, I assume) and gives it the all-clear. But nonetheless, when Ward drinks it he does indeed drop dead from prussic acid poisoning. The sergeant is baffled, but arrests Falstaff.

Later on, Rex Tyler is looking through his books, trying to think of a solution to the murder, and considers the ice cubes in the water when Thorndyke walks in (I guess he's got a key to Rex's door). Rex explains that Sir John Falstaff is a Shakespeare character, and just then the radio announces that Falstaff has been released due to lack of evidence, and has announced that psychiatrist Dr Paul Hollman will die at midnight. He was last seen driving down Hathaway Road, where there's an "odd house on a dirt road that branches from the road." It's 11pm now, so they quickly change into "uniform" (Thorndyke's got his red cape back this month) and Hourman exposes himself to the Miraclo rays.

Hang on a minute, it's 11pm? Why is Thorndyke wandering the streets and dropping into Rex Tyler's house? Do his parents know he's out?

Anyway, Hourman sends Thorndyke to Hollman's house, while he goes to find Falstaff on Hathaway Road. Falstaff is at home, happily laughing about Ward's death with Quanto, the butler. Hourman barges in and tells Falstaff that he knows there were poisoned ice cubes in the water. He asks why he did it, and Falstaff explains that Ward and Hollman "plotted to ruin me by putting me in a mental hospital!" But now he's escaped and will have his revenge. He'll also need to kill Hourman and blow up the house to stop the police finding his real identity - he pulls a lever and Hourman drops down through a trapdoor into a pit, which starts to fill with water.

Falstaff departs to kill Dr Hollman ("It will not be his weak heart that kills him!") and Hourman creatively escapes from the pit - pulling shards of wood from a beam, he sticks them into gaps in the trapdoor above; when the water rises, the wood expands and breaks the trapdoor. He escapes and confronts Quanto, who throws dynamite at him - Hourman dives back into the water to avoid it, but Quanto ends up trapped in the burning ruins of the house. Hourman has to rescue him before hurrying off to Hollman's house.

Falstaff is telling the police sergeant that Hollman is going to die, when Hollman comes in and says he recognises him. Falstaff offers to shake hands, but Thorndyke dives in to stop him, noticing a poison needle on his ring. Falstaff hits Thorndyke with a stick, and demonstrates that the needle only contains iodine. But then Quanto comes in, following Hourman's orders and saying he's quitting. Enraged, Falstaff runs at Quanto, reminding him that he put the ice cubes in Ward's glass, but Thorndyke rugby-tackles him and he's arrested by the sergeant. Hollman explains that he and Ward had hoped Cornell's mental problems would be cured in his hospital, but his mind has completely gone.

Then Hourman explains at length that the ice cubes were poisoned and gradually melted, meaning the water was fine when the sergeant tested it. He also adds that Quanto had replaced the real butler, "who had been kidnapped or murdered." Hourman and Thorndyke dash off into the night again.

Adventure Comics No. 79 (October 1942)
Gun Gunther, ruthless Napoleon of crime, and "Prof" Pitts, warped genius of crime, have joined forces with a sinister scheme. Prof has designed a bell that can bring about death, destruction and madness (he "hates the world", apparently, and generally wants to teach it a lesson). He's also designed "vibro-mitters" for Gun and his goons to wear, to protect them from the effects. Gun goes out to see Hans, a bell-maker, and pays him a thousand dollars in advance for quick production according to the plans. Hans, who's always wanted to make the biggest bell in the world, goes to Rex Tyler to get the right chemicals to make the alloy.

"What? Gun Gunther ordering a bell?" says Rex. "But I guess it's all right! I'll get the chemicals!" - I suppose he can't do anything to stop someone legally purchasing a giant bell, but you'd think a good superhero would have at least been curious and looked into it a little. Dozens of metalcrafters work for weeks to construct the bell, and when it's finally finished one night, Hans gives it a bang with a hammer to see how it sounds. It sounds good at first, but then he realises the "terrible pulsations of super-sound" are killing him! The sound-waves, powerful enough to destroy buildings, drive everyone nearby insane! Gunther and his gang watch in awe, wearing their protective vibro-mitters.

When Rex sees what's happened, he hurries to change into his costume and expose himself to Miraclo rays. Thorndyke is with him, now wearing a black eye-mask along with his cape and hourglass. It still doesn't do much to conceal his identity. Hoping that his super-powers will keep him safe from the bell's effects, Hourman runs to the bell, where Gunther is about to give it a really big whack with the hammer this time! Hourman beats the men up, and stops the bell's vibrations, allowing the police to get near it. He tells them to guard the bell, while he goes to find the man who created it and find out how to destroy it.

First, he goes looking for Gunther, to find out how he's not affected by the bell. Thorndyke, all throughout this story, just follows Hourman around saying how eager he is to fight somebody. I'm starting to worry about his sanity. Anyway, Gunther is in a building overlooking the bell, along with a henchman armed with a rifle. He shoots a bullet at the bell to make it ring, and Hourman has to turn back quickly to carry the policemen (and Thorndyke) super-quickly out of range. Then, with his hour of Miraclo nearly up, he cuts the bell loose from the frame holding it up, causing it to fall down and muffle itself in the earth below.

Hourman and Thorndyke find Gunther's secret hideout, where they've gone with all the money they've looted from ruined houses, and beat the villains up. Prof emerges from a trapdoor in the floor and threatens Hourman, but then Thorndyke jumps on his head. Our heroes turn the villains over to the police, who imply that they'll get the electric chair at Sing-Sing for their crimes.

Adventure Comics No. 80 (November 1942)
Sure, Green Lantern got his own comic, and a superhero of that name is still appearing in the movies even today... but if it ever came to a mental calculation between him and Hourman, this story shows us who's the man to bet on.

Hourman exposes himself to the Miraclo rays, and tells Thorndyke he can't come along on this case. He races off to a radio show, The Radio Treasure Hunt, where guests are set a challenge and can win a thousand dollars for charity! The other guests are "famous in the world of wealth and industry", and are each given a task, unknown to anybody but the sponsor until they're revealed. Hourman's task is to multiply 725,958,238,096,074,907,868,531,656,993,638,851,106 by itself, in his head, in one hour! And he'll be locked in an empty room, to make sure he doesn't use pencil or paper!

Hourman accepts the challenge, but as he's being escorted to his "arithmetic chamber", he overhears somebody listening in to the police radio, which is announcing that the jewellery store of another guest on the radio show is being robbed. Realising that something fishy is going on, Hourman calls Thorndyke on his own shortwave radio, and sneaks out the back door by taking the hinges off. Not wanting to be seen as Hourman and lose his thousand dollar prize, he changes back into Rex Tyler to meet up with Thorndyke, and they head to the candy warehouse of another guest, being the nearest target to the jewellery store.

They find the thieves stealing sugar ration cards ("more valuable than money today!" - having resolutely ignored the war so far, at least its effects get a passing mention in this one). Rex and Thorndyke beat them up, but they run for it, and rather than chase them through the dark streets, Rex suggests heading to the next place they'll aim for, the offices of a wealthy accountant. They're planning to ambush the criminals when they arrive, but the bad guys are alerted by the sound of Thorndyke playing with an adding machine, and get the drop on them. The criminals tie them to chairs and set a candle in a bowl of gunpowder to eventually kill them. Then they leave to their next target, knowing that the treasure hunt the house's owner has been sent on will eventually lead her far away to Brooklyn.

While the candle burns down and Thorndyke frets, Rex seems distracted for a while, but eventually gets them free by hitting a typewriter with his feet to knock the candle over and burn Thorndyke's ropes loose. Free again, they have to hurry, with just fifteen minutes left to catch the crooks at the perfume store, get back to the radio show and win the prize! They beat them up without too much damage, and Rex hurries back to change into Hourman again, giving Thorndyke instructions on what to do.

Hourman is let out of the locked room, and having figured out the answer to the problem while he was tied up earlier, he can confidently announce that it's 527,015,363,459,557,385,673,733,542,638,591,721,213,298,966,079,307,524,904,381,389,499,251,637,236!

[As everyone knows, it's actually 527,015,363,459,557,385,673,733,542,638,591,721,213,298,966,079,307,524,905,381,389,499,251,637,423,236, but I think we can forgive a couple of typos and be very, very impressed with the writer for having actually gone to the trouble of doing the sum! I mean, seriously, did someone actually sit down with pen and paper and a book of log tables and slide rule (that's how you did sums in 1942, you know) and calculate this, just for the sake of a throwaway superhero story in the back pages of Adventure Comics?]

Anyway, after Hourman gets his prize money, Thorndyke bursts in and announces that the sponsor is the head of a criminal gang. Since the robbers knew the contents of the treasure hunt, which nobody but the sponsor knew, that proves his guilt! As the police arrest him, they chuckle that this was a case Hourman had nothing to do with!

Adventure Comics No. 81 (December 1942)
This is the one and only Hourman story to directly mention the war! Like most superheroes, Rex Tyler isn't given any particular reason for not having joined the army like all red-blooded patriotic American men should, and nor is there any explanation of why Hourman isn't making more of an active effort to defeat the enemies of democracy and freedom (as the comics routinely called them). Obviously, the stories don't really work if the heroes use their powers to fix things wrong in the real world, so they just try to ignore reality as much as possible. (There is a Justice Society adventure in which the heroes destroy a German ship and are indignantly told by the American armed forces to stop it, and "leave some fun for us!")

Thorndyke is trying out a terrific new high-dive at the swimming pool (wearing a bathing suit that also has a turtleneck), when mysterious men come along and order everybody out of the water. One of them gets into a deep-sea diving suit and goes down to search the bottom of the pool, but finds nothing. The thugs depart to search another pool, and Thorndyke runs to get dressed, then go to see Rex Tyler in his office. Rex resolves to investigate immediately, but is stopped by his boss, demanding to know where he's going. "Do you realise there's a war going on? You can't take time off like this! America needs your work!"

Rex protests that he's just going for his lunch hour, and the boss lets him go, but tells him if he takes any longer than an hour, he'll be "guilty of sabotaging your country's war effort!" He doesn't seem to wonder why Rex is going out for lunch with a young boy. They get into costume, Hourman exposes himself to Miraclo, and they hurry to the pool, where once again the diver is searching for something. Since they might not be doing anything criminal at all, Hourman goes up to them to ask what's going on, but one of the thugs pulls a gun and shoots at him, so the heroes go into action, beating them up. Thorndyke turns the handle of the air pump to send the diver shooting up out of the water.

One of the thugs grabs Thorndyke, saying "I have heard Hourman will do anything to save the boy! Maybe we stop his attack!", but Hourman leaps from the diving board and lands on the thug, temporarily knocking himself out in the process and allowing the bad guys to run away. To find them, he goes to a ship's chandler (and explains to Thorndyke what that is; to be fair, Thorndyke wasn't in the previous adventure that involved a chandler) to ask about a diving suit that's been used to search swimming pools. The shop owner immediately calls for his German-accented henchmen, who come in with a "Ach! It iss Hourman! Ve kill him, ja!" The heroes beat them up and are pleased to see the police come in - but actually the police are more Germans in disguise, and they club Hourman and Thorndyke's heads.

The Germans' sinister leader, Baron Glantz, has the heroes tied up and radios a Nazi U-boat to ask for more information about where the secret orders were dropped. The U-boat says that they were accidentally dropped into a small body of water surrounded by trees - an extra detail that allows the Baron to guess it must have been the lake in the park. They quickly get rid of Hourman and Thorndyke by tying anchors to them and dropping them into the bay, and hurry to the park. "The fate of our whole underground movement depends on those orders!"

Hourman manages to use razor clam shells to cut his bonds, and free himself and Thorndyke (or "Thorny", as he repeatedly calls him in this one - Thorny repays the favour by calling him "H.M."). They race to the park and beat up the Germans, turning them over to the real police this time. Rex hurries back to the office, but is five minutes late back from lunch. "You're practically helping our enemies win this war!" the boss shouts.

That's the last appearance of Mr Bannerman, the longest-running supporting character of the series; he's not in the final two stories, but I'm sure he continued to boss Rex around for many years to come.

Adventure Comics No. 82 (January 1943)
Hourman gazes through the window at semi-naked musclemen, in a title panel symbolically representing what happens in this story, though it's quite funny if you just look at it out of context.

Late one afternoon, Thorndyke bursts into Rex Tyler's workplace to tell him he's seen thugs going into Rex's apartment house, probably to rob it! Sure enough, "Doc" and his two henchmen Slim and Stumpy have already looted four apartments, and just have time to go through the last one, Rex's, before they leave. They take everything they can find, including "dis here swell-lookin' radio!" When Rex and Thorndyke arrive, they're horrified to see that the Miraclo machine is gone!

Rex changes into his Hourman costume (I guess, unlike the Miraclo machine, he doesn't leave his costumes lying around in plain sight) despite not being able to get his super-powers [there's no mention at all that there could be any way to become Hourman without the machine - I guess he can't just make himself a pill any more?], and he and Thorndyke race out into the streets. They are pointed in the right direction by various boys along the way - Thorndyke explains "I figured you'd want to follow them, so I got me pals on the trail of them crooks!" This is the last vestige of the Minute-Men, presumably, though they're not given the name.

In their hideout, the thugs are impressed with the success of their burglaries, thanks to the injections Doc gave them that "magnified your acquisitive instincts 100%". They get ready to leave to rob the Gotham Gem Store (we're still in Gotham City!), but first Slim plugs in the Miraclo machine (it plugs into the mains, apparently) and tries to turn it on. The thugs are bathed with light, and unknown to them, gain super-powers! Hourman runs in and tries to stop them; the thugs draw their guns but, not knowing their own strength, crush them like putty. A table is smashed to pieces in Slim's hands, and Doc realises what's happened - they've stolen Hourman's Miraclo machine! Thorndyke accidentally tackles Hourman to the floor, and the bad guys get away in their car in the confusion.

As they drive to the gem store (stopping to steal a no-parking sign along the way, thanks to the injections), Doc reflects that he remembers which apartment the Miraclo machine comes from, and knows who Hourman is! When they arrive, he orders the thugs to smash through the wall so as not to set off burglar alarms, and they get to work. The still-powerless Hourman and Thorndyke arrive outside, and Hourman taunts the crooks into breaking the window and setting off the alarm. Although Doc urges them to retreat, the thugs want to take care of the heroes first - grabbing them and tying them to "the city powerhouse nearby". When the streetlights come on at six-thirty (ten minutes from now), they'll be fried! Doc insists that they stop; he needs to find out from Hourman how the Miraclo machine works! But Slim tells him to shut up, and punches him hard enough to break his back. The two super-thugs depart to steal some more, leaving Doc and the heroes behind [this is great stuff - it's still rare in comics at this point to see a bad guy with super-strength, and this whole story gives us a brains-against-brawn tale better than the norm!]

Doc gasps that he knows Hourman is Rex Tyler, though the other two don't remember the name or the apartment - he struggles to free the heroes, wanting them to get revenge on the thugs, and succeeds, only to be electrocuted himself. Hourman pursues the thugs to a department store, where he lures them into a revolving door, trapping them with their uncontrollable speed. That gives him a minute to use the Miraclo machine (which they've been carrying around with them all this time) and power up. Stumpy hits a pillar, threatening to bring the whole building down around them, but while Hourman holds it up, their hour of Miraclo runs out, and Thorndyke is able to knock them both out.

All is well again, and Rex resolves to lock the Miraclo machine in a safe from now on.

Adventure Comics No. 83 (February 1943)
It's a downright weird title panel for our final Hourman adventure - with thugs in high chairs and baby bonnets pointing guns at them, Hourman and Thorndyke write numbers on a blackboard... it's only vaguely thematically similar to what happens in the story.

Bad guys raid "the swank modern women's shop, where a sensational show is in progress", and steal Marie Antoinette's diamond shoe clips. They leave behind a card just saying "One two". Then they go to The Door, Gotham's smartest night-spot [as the only name to be given more than once, Gotham City officially wins the prize of being Hourman's home town] and just wreck the place, leaving a card saying "3,4".

The next day, at work, Rex reads about the crimes in the newspaper, when the thugs come in! He tries to fight them off without Miraclo, throwing a chemical at them, but they club him over the head and steal sticks of dynamite the chemical company has invented. They leave a "5,6" card behind.

At home, Rex exposes himself to Miraclo rays and confers with Thorndyke. The thugs are clearly following a nursery-rhyme pattern (buckle my shoe, close the door, pick up sticks), but why? They follow the crooks' trail (the chemical he threw on them glows when you shine a torch on it) and catch up with them at a garage. Thorndyke sprays them with gasoline from a nearby pump to stop them using guns, and they give up, handing their guns over to the heroes. But it's a trap - the guns emit sleeping gas, and Hourman and Thorndyke are knocked out.

The bad guys tie the heroes to a bridge (seven eight, lay them straight) and chuckle at the simple reason for their nursery-rhyme antics - advertising. They'll be in demand for highly-paid criminal jobs now everybody knows about them! They light the fuse of the dynamite, confident that the foggy night will stop anyone finding the heroes in time, and depart for the next part of their commercial.

Hourman wakes up, lamenting that the gas has temporarily weakened him so he can't break his bonds. But he can still whistle loudly enough that the man in charge of the drawbridge thinks a ship is approaching, and raises it! The dynamite tumbles into the river. Hourman and Thorndyke get free, and race off to apparently the only person in town who might be described as a big fat hen, wealthy eccentric Dora Danby.

The crooks break into her apartment and find her (with a frilly collar covering her mouth) counting her money. But it turns out to be Thorndyke in disguise, to ambush them! They beat the bad guys up, and send them to prison, to dig and delve (or at least break rocks).

That's the end, and although there's no mention of it in the comic, that's the last anyone ever sees or hears of Hourman for over twenty years. It's 1963 before he's dredged up from the archives with a revival of the Justice Society.

Where did he go? Well, maybe he'd successfully eliminated crime from his home town, whatever it was called, and didn't need to be a superhero any more. Or possibly the war prevented him getting the materials to make more Miraclo rays (remember he mentioned to Jimmy, after inventing the Miraclo machine, that he only had a limited amount of the substance left; that might be also why he can't make pills any more and needs to use the more efficient ray machine) and he had to give up the superhero business. Maybe he joined the army. Maybe he was run out of town by a mob of angry parents. Maybe Thorndyke accidentally killed him. Maybe Mr Bannerman fired him and he had to sell his superhero equipment to pay the rent. Maybe he married Regina and lived unhappily ever after.

Whatever happened to him, he's a fascinating case. A never all that popular superhero from a time when superheroes were everywhere, he would have disappeared without a trace at the end of 1942 if not for the fact that he was in the first Justice Society of America story. And I don't think any of the revivals from 1963 onwards did him much credit, so here's to the original three-year existence of Hourman! Not a trace of drug addiction, he's just a harmless weirdo.